In spite of a U.S. Supreme Court session which, by issuing a spate of shattering decisions – including the overturning of Roe v. Wade – indicated that the erosion of fundamental civil liberties by that body is no longer a hypothetical fear, 2022 was also marked by a number of critical home state victories that affirmed many important constitutional rights for residents of the Ocean State. In addition to a docket of more than 30 cases, we successfully settled a number of lawsuits and lobbied on over 340 pieces of legislation during the 2022 General Assembly session. Here is a small sampling of highlights from our work this year.
- On behalf of two political candidates, we successfully challenged a Pawtucket ordinance that strictly limited the posting of political signs on residential property.
- In a victory for religious freedom, the Town of Coventry granted a necessary zoning permit to a small Wiccan church whose request had initially been denied until the ACLU threatened suit.
- In a case in which we filed multiple “friend of the court” briefs, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act, which codified the tenets of Roe v. Wade into state law.
- Affiliate advocacy resulted in the adoption of policies by DCYF which enable parents to breastfeed or nurse their babies when they are in foster care.
- We filed suit on behalf of a newly hired employee at a professional cleaning service who was immediately terminated after the company learned she was pregnant.
- The U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn a settlement agreement between Brown University and female student-athletes that reversed Brown’s attempt to cut five women’s teams from its athletics program.
- In response to the abrupt closing of several polling stations in low-income neighborhoods during the 2020 elections, the RI Board of Elections adopted ACLU-crafted regulations, in time for this year’s elections, that establish clear standards before polling places can be relocated.
- After going to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 to allow Rhode Islanders to vote by mail ballot during the pandemic without the need for witness signatures, the ACLU was part of a coalition effort that led to passage this year of a comprehensive election reform bill that permanently removed that requirement.
- Following years of ACLU litigation and advocacy, the General Assembly favorably addressed for the first time the problem of “prison gerrymandering,” the redistricting practice which unjustly counts all detainees and prisoners at the ACI as being residents of Cranston rather than their home communities.
- We filed a class action lawsuit against RIPTA and United Healthcare over a data breach that compromised the personal and health care information of thousands of individuals.
- The Affiliate has been engaged in an ongoing campaign to curb the spread of so-called “automated license plate readers” and the surveillance state that they promote.
- We obtained legal relief for a graduate student who lost a job solely because she was a registered medical marijuana user.
EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS
- A federal judge refused to dismiss an ACLU lawsuit alleging that a 13-year-old Black honors student in Pawtucket was unlawfully handcuffed and arrested by a school resource officer who wanted to “make an example” of her.
- A large coalition effort led to the passage of ACLU-drafted legislation allowing undocumented residents to obtain a drivers’ privilege card.
- The threat of ACLU litigation prompted a school district to reverse its refusal to provide a corrected diploma to a transgender alumnus who had legally changed their name.
- A state court judge ruled in an ACLU case that the Providence School District had failed to provide legally required services to English Language Learners.
- The Affiliate filed an open records lawsuit against the City of Providence when officials refused to release any documents related to its decision to bar a rapper from performing at a local night club.
- When a police officer fired for misconduct sued under a pseudonym to get his job back, ACLU intervention led to the release of the officer’s name.
- The ACLU’s legal work led to the release of juvenile offenders serving lengthy sentences who had continued to be incarcerated despite a new law authorizing their early parole.
- After a decade-long battle by the Affiliate, the RI Supreme Court declared unconstitutional an archaic state law that classified individuals serving life sentences as “civilly dead,” barring them from suing to challenge violations of their rights.