Legal Advocacy and Litigation

The ACLU-NM legal department focuses on establishing case law and policy precedents that protect or expand civil rights.  We use litigation as a last resort. We prefer to talk things out or negotiate whenever possible to correct civil rights violations.

Our legal staff and legal panel carefully review the cases submitted to us by individuals and select those that, if resolved successfully, will have the broadest impact on many citizens of New Mexico. The clients we choose to represent receive our legal services free of charge.

The cases described below illustrate some examples of our work:

  • Climbing through windows and posing as pizza deliverymen, sheriff’s deputies conducted a series of raids against immigrant families in Chaparral, NM in 2007. After illegally entering their homes without warrants, deputies interrogated residents about their immigration status, then arrested and deported several community members, including U.S. citizens. ACLU-NM responded with a lawsuit and successfully argued that local police and sheriff departments should concentrate on community safety and not enforce federal immigration law. As a result, several sheriffs’ departments in New Mexico changed their policies to minimize racial profiling and harassment of immigrant communities.
  • When items allegedly disappeared from the locker room at a high school basketball tournament in northern New Mexico, police arrived on the scene and illegally searched the lockers, bags and bus of only one team: the Native American team from To’hajiilee in the Navajo Nation. The search was conducted without requesting or receiving the team’s consent and without any evidence that To’hajiilee team members could be suspected of theft. ACLU-NM intervened on behalf of the students and obtained damages for the unlawful search, seizure and detention of the players.
  • Shawn Miller was peacefully preaching about his Christian beliefs on the streets of Portales, NM when the police arrested and jailed him for disorderly conduct. He spent 109 days in jail. In cooperation with the American Family Association, ACLU-NM secured Miller’s release and protected his right to free speech.

If you would like to submit a complaint for review by our legal panel, please read more about our legal services and our criteria for case selection.

You may also follow the link to learn more about our recent legal advocacy and litigation work.