ACLU of Wisconsin - Mission

The American Civil Liberties Union

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Who We Are:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the nation's primary advocate of an individual's civil rights and civil liberties as guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Since 1920, the ACLU has maintained that civil liberties must be respected and it has made it its mission to fight civil liberties violations wherever and whenever they occur. We also work for change through public education, community activism, public policy analysis, and governmental lobbying.



The ACLU of Wisconsin assists Wisconsin residents with serious violations of their civil liberties that have a serious impact upon the population. Click here for more details on if you have an eligible claim.


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Contact Information:

Legal Department
ACLU of Wisconsin
207 E. Buffalo Street, Suite 325
Milwaukee, WI 53202-5774

Phone: (414) 272-4032 ext.216



Services Provided:

Selection of Cases

The ACLU of Wisconsin selects cases which are believed to have the greatest impact on protecting civil liberties. Keep in mind that there are many cases and problems of unfairness and injustice which the ACLU of Wisconsin is simply unable to handle.

The ACLU generally files cases that affect the civil liberties or civil rights of large numbers of people, rather than those involving a dispute between individual parties. The basic questions we ask when reviewing a potential case are: (1) Is this a significant civil liberties or civil rights issue? (2) What effect will this case have on people in addition to our client? (3) Do we have the necessary resources to take this case?


Examples of Civil Liberties the ACLU of Wisconsin Seeks To Protect

Freedom of speech and press, for example a student is suspended for writing a newspaper article critical of the principal; a police officer is disciplined for speaking out against police brutality; or a group is charged for police protection when it applies for a demonstration permit.

Freedom of Religion. This involves both the right of individuals to practice religious beliefs and the separation of church and state.

Privacy, for example reproductive rights, employee privacy, or drug testing.

Equal Protection/Discrimination, for example a sheriff's department which refuses to accept women deputies; or a refusal to allow homeless people to vote because they have no fixed addresses.

Due Process, for example a community group is denied a permit by the police, and the town provides no appeal of the police decision.


Cases That Affect Others

Lawsuits can affect a large number of people in two ways. First, we sometimes challenge a policy or practice that directly impacts many people. For instance, if the state cut Medi-Cal funding for abortions from the annual budget, thousands of poor women would be affected. Second, a lawsuit brought on behalf of one person can have a larger impact on others when it establishes or expands legal protections. For example, a lawsuit challenging the denial of health care at a clinic to one HIV+ person, if successful, could set a precedent for thousands of patients in the future.

We Prefer Cases Without Serious Factual Disputes
We tend to take cases that do not involve complicated disputes of fact, and prefer cases that involve questions of law only. An example of a factual dispute is an employment discrimination case in which the employer claims he fired the employee because of poor job performance and has credible evidence to support that claim, but the employee disputes the evidence.

We often decide not to accept cases involving factual disputes because: (1) if a court resolves the facts against the client, it may never reach the civil liberties or civil rights issues; (2) if the decision rests upon the specific facts of a case, the case is less likely to have broad impact on many people; and (3) we have so few staff attorneys that it is difficult for us to devote attorney time to resolving factual disputes.


Types of Cases the ACLU Generally Does Not Accept

The ACLU does not generally accept these types of cases:

A person has been fired from a job without a good reason or just cause;

A person is being denied benefits, such as workers' compensation or unemployment benefits;

Criminal cases, or complaints about a person's attorney in a criminal case. We consider accepting criminal cases only in limited instances, such as, for example, when a person is being prosecuted for engaging in activity protected by the Constitution - such as participating in a political demonstration.

In general we don't handle cases that involve such things as evictions, tenant-landlord disputes, general disputes between employees and employers (i.e. disputes centering on wages and hours), criminal prosecutions, divorce, child custody, or wills, unless they raise broader constitutional or civil rights concerns.