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February 21, 2019

Steinberg to Establish Civil Rights Initiative at the University of Michigan Law School

DETROIT — American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg will be leaving the organization in August after 22 years. He will be joining the University of Michigan Law School faculty this fall and will establish the Civil Rights Litigation Initiative, enabling students to work on civil rights litigation.

“We are extremely grateful for Michael’s formidable contributions to the ACLU,” said ACLU of Michigan Board President Dan Varner. “His devotion to civil liberties has made our legal program one of the strongest in the nation. And in his new role, he will continue to enrich the organization as he trains the next generation of ACLU lawyers. We wish him the best and are happy to know he won’t be going far.”

When Steinberg began at the ACLU of Michigan in 1997, he was the only attorney on staff. Under his leadership, the ACLU of Michigan’s legal program now has a team of 12 lawyers, four support staff, and an investigator. During his time with the organization, Steinberg guided the establishment of the organization’s Racial Justice Project and LGBT Rights Project. He also led the legal efforts on the most pressing civil rights issues in our state, including: beating back post-9/11 policies targeting Muslim communities; defending against attacks on LGBT rights, women’s healthcare and affirmative action; stopping discriminatory housing foreclosures in Detroit; supporting Flint families’ struggle to access clean water and replace lead pipes; and expanding voting rights and immigrant rights.

“I’ve poured my heart and soul into the ACLU and take great pride knowing that I helped shape this premier civil rights organization,” said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU Legal Director. “I know it will continue to be a leader in fighting for social justice and the rights of the most vulnerable. I will miss my colleagues dearly, but look forward to working with them in my new role as I teach law students how to defend civil rights in the courts.”

In addition to growing the legal department, Steinberg has cultivated an army of statewide volunteer lawyers, who devote tens of thousands of hours working alongside ACLU of Michigan staff on cutting-edge, high-impact cases that have changed the civil liberties landscape nationwide. This past year alone, Michigan ACLU cooperating attorneys donated more than $9 million worth of legal work on ACLU cases.

“Inside the ACLU, Michael is affectionately referred to as ‘coach’ because of his uncompromising commitment to preparing young leaders to take on the toughest of social justice fights,” said ACLU of Michigan Deputy Director Rana Elmir. “As he announces his departure, I realize ‘champion’ may be the better moniker. Whether it’s canvassing door to door for voting rights, taking cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, leading the chants at a protest or teaching our staff, volunteers and interns to juggle, Michael approaches every challenge with unmatched pride, zeal and passion. While this is bittersweet news, we are heartened to be able to share our coach, champion and friend with the students and faculty at U of M.”

Steinberg will begin at the University of Michigan Law School this September.