American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA)

A nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization that serves as an enduring guardian of justice, fairness, and freedom, working to protect civil liberties and advance equity for all.

Philadelphia Bar Foundation Grant Impact

The ACLU of Pennsylvania is an organization that depends on a significant amount of unrestricted support to maintain its capacity to respond to urgent civil liberties threats through advocacy efforts or litigation.  As these threats have multiplied in number over the past two years, this capacity is being tested on a near-daily basis - particularly with regard to the increased level of unconstitutional and inhumane immigration enforcement. It is more urgent than ever, then, that the Bar Foundation's continued support of the ACLU-PA's ability to defend the rights of individuals throughout the Greater Philadelphia region continues.

Summary List of Programs and Services

Litigation: The ACLU of Pennsylvania undertakes litigation when doing so is the most effective way to advance a civil liberties concern. We file lawsuits that will have an impact on people’s rights by setting a legal precedent or affecting the policies and actions of public officials. We both provide direct legal representation to people and file amicus (friend-of-the-court) briefs addressing civil liberties issues in cases initiated by others. All of the ACLU-PA’s legal work is on a pro bono basis; we never charge for our legal services. The program is supported in large part by a network of volunteer attorneys who, last year, donated over $1.5 million in pro bono services.

Legislative advocacy: The ACLU of Pennsylvania works year-round in Harrisburg to support legislation that expands or protects our civil liberties and fights against bills that infringe on our freedoms. One of the few nonprofits with a full-time lobbyist, the ACLU of Pennsylvania tracks hundreds of bills each session.

Advocacy and Policy: The ACLU works to educate people about their rights and to provide them with tools to advocate for themselves and their communities and to mobilize supporters. We also work to raise awareness of civil liberties issues with decision makers and the public at large. Significantly, the ACLU mounts sustained campaigns to affect public policies on reproductive freedom and criminal justice issues. The ACLU of Pennsylvania publishes Know Your Rights materials on a variety of subjects; provides speakers throughout the state; and issues reports and white papers on a wide range of issues affecting civil liberties in Pennsylvania.

Communications: The ACLU of Pennsylvania effectively uses all forms of communication to tell the story of civil liberties in the commonwealth. Our communications staff coordinates daily with their colleagues in litigation and legislative advocacy to respond to journalists who are reporting on these issues. We use social media and other web-based tools to communicate directly with our members, other activists, and all Pennsylvanians who care about civil liberties. And we collaborate regularly with the ACLU’s national office and our allies to craft messages that best explain the issues.

Summary List of Priorities for Client Intake

Our current areas of focus include: Civil Asset Forfeiture, Criminal Justice Reform, Due Process, Free Speech, Immigrants' Rights, LGBT Rights, Open Government, Police Practices, Privacy, Racial Justice, Religious Liberty, Reproductive Freedom, Security & Civil Liberties, Student & Youth Rights, and Voting Rights. The ACLU is able to integrate communications and outreach, organizing and policy advocacy, and litigation and other legal tools to achieve our goals. The ACLU-PA leverages each of these overarching strategies to hold state and local governments accountable.