ACLU always controversial

August 5, 2008
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In an obituary for Indianapolis attorney Alan Nolan, I learned that he was one of the founders of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, now the ACLU of Indiana. According to law firm Ice Miller’s Web site, Nolan and attorney Merle Miller, another founder, created a stir by starting a branch of the national organization here. Some believe the ACLU was linked to communism, a hot issue in the 1950s McCarthy era. Following its formation, the organization was immediately banned from meeting at the Indiana World War Memorial because of allegations the ICLU lacked patriotism, according the ACLU of Indiana’s Web site.

From Day 1 the organization founded to defend people’s rights has been controversial.

When it first started, it tackled cases involving the building of a large cross on public property, reinstating college students who were expelled after leaving the Indiana State University campus o attend a peace march in Washington, D.C., and prisoners’ rights at Indiana jails.

More recently, the ACLU has taken cases involving what type of prayer is acceptable before sessions of the Indiana House of Representatives, voters challenging Indiana’s voter ID law, and a law requiring all sellers of sexually explicit material to register with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office and pay a fee.

Some feel the ACLU of Indiana is needed in today’s world as a champion for every citizen’s rights under our constitutions, regardless of who the person is or to what group they belong.

Others don’t have as favorable a view of the ACLU of Indiana, believing the organization is simply anti-prayer, pro-immigrant, pro-gay, pro-choice, and supportive of controversial groups like prisoners, the Ku Klux Klan, and other extremists because it represents those groups in court.

Is it possible that the ACLU of Indiana is even more controversial now than it was when it was founded in the early 1950s? I guess that depends on which side you take on the issues the ACLU gets involved in.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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