Though I led the ACLU of Utah for over four years, I was in fact never contacted (by phone or e-mail) for your recent cover story [“All Bark,” April 22, City Weekly]. While at the ACLU, I made a point of returning every press call and working with every reporter on every issue. After reading your article, I was almost relieved to have my term reduced in half by CW (from four years to two) and to have not been given the opportunity to comment on when/why/what the ACLU chooses to litigate.
The commitment to litigate in the civil-rights and civil-liberties arena in Utah is indeed complicated. I was fortunate to have learned the administrative ropes from Carol Gnade, and felt fine about passing the baton to Karen McCreary, but I was surprised your article did not mention the capable legal director during my tenure, Margaret Plane, whose first filing of a federal lawsuit, I recall, was settled by the government entity within 24 hours.
I mention this anecdote because our work did benefit from the previous incredible work by Stephen Clark. There was a very long period of time (with the exception of the Main Street second lawsuit and the others filed during my era) when any demand letter we wrote or legal advocacy we engaged in was met with a serious response and prompt action, much of which was not necessarily publicized.
Contrary to popular belief, the ACLU is not always interested in mere rabblerousing or publicity, but making sure that the government stays on the constitutional rails and treats its citizens fairly.
Choosing when and why to go public with our issues is one weapon in the arsenal. All ACLU staff spends considerable time learning about complex issues, dealing with the Legislature, engaging in public education (I gave over 150 presentations, the bulk dealing with the post 9/11 erosions of civil liberties) and litigating when necessary. It is always a tough call, but to this day I admire the work of legal directors Marina Lowe, Margaret Plane, Stephen Clark and various staff attorneys and cooperating attorneys who did the heavy lifting.
ACLU of Utah executive director
August 2002-November 2006