Ever wonder who’s behind the work here at the ACLU of Michigan? In our new blog series Five Questions, ACLU of Michigan staff will talk about the incredible day-to-day work defending civil liberties.
We'll be asking our fellows to speak about their experiences in the office as well as the passions that drove them to engage in the social-justice work in which they are currently engaged. Today we're sitting down with Legal Fellow Linda Jordan.
What is being a legal fellow at the ACLU of Michigan like?
As a legal fellow at the ACLU of Michigan, I assist staff attorneys on a variety of legal projects. These include drafting memoranda addressing the merits of potential cases and constitutional theories, investigating civil rights violations, interviewing potential plaintiffs and drafting complaints and briefs.
What brought you to the ACLU of Michigan?
As a native Michigander, I have always been invested in the affairs of our state. After graduating from Fordham Law School last May, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in public interest law, and I couldn’t think of better place to start than in Detroit. I was interested in a variety of civil rights and social justice issues, and I deeply admired the breadth of the ACLU of Michigan’s work.
How has your work here shaped your interest in public interest law?
There is tremendous value in working at an ACLU affiliate like the ACLU of Michigan. My work is not confined to one substantive area of civil rights law, but rather, it is tailored to the particular needs of the state. I have gained experience on a variety of issues including free speech, Fourth Amendment search and seizure, reproductive justice and religious refusal. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned a great deal about impact litigation strategy. The ACLU of Michigan not only brings cases to protect the rights of individual plaintiffs, but also to achieve broader relief. Limited resources force attorneys and staff members to make careful determinations about where to focus their efforts. The ability to weigh the various factors involved in bringing an impact litigation suit and make the right decision is a skill I hope to further develop and to employ throughout my legal career.
What are your plans for your career after your ACLU of Michigan experience?
I would like explore other public interest careers in Detroit. I am particularly interested in the intersection of poverty law, racial justice and community economic development. Given the current pro-development climate in Detroit, an important question to ask is “development for whom?” Public policies should promote equitable development to ensure that new projects benefit the entire community, not just the wealthy few. Eliminating hazardous blight that detracts from the neighborhood is a laudable goal, but how do we prevent the blight in the first place? How do we as a community help keep people in their homes and make sure they have access to safe drinking water? I am interested in addressing the root causes of poverty and combatting the insidious processes and systemic racism that have caused vast racial inequality.
What civil liberties issues are you most personally drawn to?
In addition to economic and racial justice, I have always advocated for women's rights and reproductive freedom. I am particularly troubled by the trend toward "religious refusal," and its implications on women's and LGBTQ rights. More and more often, individuals, corporations and other entities are using religion as an excuse to discriminate against women and the LGBTQ community. Medical professionals are denying women basic reproductive healthcare in the name of religion. Catholic-affiliated hospitals mandate that doctors make decisions based on religious doctrine and not their medical expertise. Along the same vein, business-owners are refusing to provide services to LGBTQ people in the name of religion, and recently a doctor even refused to treat a newborn solely because her parents were gay. I consider myself fortunate to be working at an organization that both protects religious freedom, and is working to expand anti-discrimination laws to ensure that religion is not being used a license to discriminate.
By Sarah Goomar, ACLU of Michigan Fellow