The Not-So-Lonely Life of an ACLU Attorney

Maria Kayanan
Associate Legal Director, ACLU of Florida

Some days, it can be lonely being an ACLU lawyer.  That’s particularly true in Florida, where we’ve been challenging a slew of laws that violate Floridians’ Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Tallahassee has become the “Pee” capital of the nation, requiring applicants for temporary government aid, and state employees, to prove that their urine is drug-free. The laws are popular among some legislators because they don’t “get” that government is held by the Constitution to a higher standard in protecting citizens’ privacy, and that demonizing the financially needy and state workers by treating them like suspected criminals is not only wrong, it’s against the law.

After Florida appealed U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven’s Preliminary Injunction that halted Florida’s dastardly scheme to drug test applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), four states joined as Amici, or “friends of the court,” to support Florida’s appeal:  Michigan (where a similar statutory scheme was declared unconstitutional over a decade ago), Alabama, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

But Luis Lebron, our client in the TANF suit, also has friends in many places, including in Alabama and Michigan!

Today, under the stewardship of Richard Rosenthal, a Miami appellate lawyer, the National Association of Social Workers, the Center for Law and Social Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Michigan League for Human Services, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, and Alabama Arise filed an amicus brief in support of Luis Lebron.

Also filing “friend of the court” briefs on behalf of Luis Lebron are Florida’s Children First and Disability Rights Florida. Also, to be filed later this evening, a brief on behalf of a huge coalition of organizations: the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, Physicians and Lawyers for National Drug Policy, the Legal Action Center, Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, National Employment Law Project, Child Welfare Organizing Project, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and the Drug Policy Alliance, authored by David Goldberg of Donahue and Goldberg in New York City.

So today, it’s not so lonely being an ACLU lawyer, even in Florida. We have advocates from across the country standing with us, and we’re grateful to all of them for joining the appeal in the Eleventh Circuit.


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