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ACLU director discusses goals

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Heading the organization charged with defending the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights is no easy feat.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which includes a staff of two attorneys, a paralegal, an office manager, and an executive director to oversee the big picture, receives about 800 requests a month for help in litigation. And then there's the misconception the organization supports only liberal causes, even though it has defended free speech rights for all Americans, regardless of their political position, and also publicly supported Second Amendment rights for gun owners.

After serving almost a year as the organization's interim executive director and following the search process set by the national organization, Gilbert Holmes took the post of executive director Dec. 10.

In some ways, he said, he's been preparing for the role for a long time. He has been on the board of the ACLU of Indiana for a number of years. He received his law degree from the Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis in 1999 after commuting from Fort Wayne three times a week to finish his last year.

He also served for 20 years in the U.S. Army and retired at the level of lieutenant colonel. He is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

He's been the decision maker as well as the face of other high profile agencies, including IndyGo, the Indianapolis public transportation system; the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles; Lincoln National Life Insurance Co.; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; and Clarian Health.

After he left IndyGo, he started a consulting firm and worked with various organizations, including the ACLU of Indiana. So when his predecessor Claudia Porretti left in late 2008 after having served the organization since summer 2006, Holmes started as the interim executive director on a contract basis.

The organization was then required by the national organization and its bylaws to have an open application process. Holmes was ultimately approved to stay on full time in December.

Among the challenges Holmes said he has faced in his first year had to do with what most non-profit organizations are going through: keeping up with the economy.

While he said the Indiana affiliate is "doing better than we had been doing," the national organization took a hit because of the collapse of Wall Street, a major donor fell onto hard economic times, and Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme also affected the organization at the national level.

"We have our challenges cut out for us," he said. "But I think people who believe in civil liberties will still support us as much as they can."

To stay relevant and to encourage more people to support the organization, two successful events took place in 2009: a dinner and a movie.

The annual dinner featured Juan Williams, a news analyst for National Public Radio and Fox News. Williams is also the author of a number of books about the civil rights movement. That event made money in 2009, which wasn't always the case in previous years.

The organization also hosted a free screening of "American Violet" in September 2009 at the Madame Walker Theatre in Indianapolis. The film is based on a true story about racial profiling in Texas where a 24-year-old single mother of four children was wrongfully accused of dealing drugs. The ACLU defended her and she won her case. The event was also supported by Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Urban League.

Another way to increase awareness and support the organization is the revitalization of the Lawyers Council. Holmes called it a "wonderful way for various Indianapolis law firms who want to be active to get involved."

Members of the Lawyers Council can support the ACLU by taking pro bono cases or by volunteering in other ways.

Another challenge Holmes said he faced was how to recruit and retain young supporters. Holmes mentioned the 2008 presidential election as an example of how people in their 20s and 30s were engaged in something that was important to them and to the country as a whole, and he thought the ACLU could tap into that energy.

The 2008 presidential election also proved that a big check isn't the only way to help, he said. He added even small amounts of money - or time - can make a big difference.

But the organization also needs to get the message out to members and potential supporters.

"You've got to engage people and ask them to be involved," he said. "Our affiliate does some things really well, especially litigation, but there are some things we're missing." Increased efforts for education, outreach, and advocacy are among his goals as executive director. Fran Quigley, a former executive director of the ACLU of Indiana and a current board member, agreed. "I think he's completely right that we have been an affiliate which has no peer throughout the country in how effective and comprehensive we have been as far as the issues we've represented in terms of litigation," Quigley said. "We have an amazing litigation team led by Ken Falk. But we can and should do better on public education and on non-litigation advocacy. Gil has made it clear to the board and staff that is what he plans to do."

To do this, Holmes said there are a few new young members who've recently joined the ACLU of Indiana's board of directors, including a high school student. The organization also does outreach via social networking sites such as Facebook, and he plans to do more events to raise awareness of the organization and educate the public about what the ACLU does.

For instance, he said, the group could better position itself to let schools know they are available to help teach about the Bill of Rights.

"An educated and informed public is less likely to be exploited," he said.

Another challenge is to explain what the ACLU is about, that it's non-partisan, that it's not conservative or liberal, he said.

"We even have some conservative donors who support us and give anonymously," he said regarding the stigma that it is a liberal organization.

"This is a dream get for the ACLU of Indiana," Quigley said regarding Holmes' new position.

"He is a lifelong devoted civil libertarian, and he is respected and admired throughout the state," Quigley said. "He has superior management and communication skills and is just the ideal representative for this organization at a really important time in its history."

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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