Before accepting a case, The American Civil Liberties Union considers:
Involves Civil Rights and Liberties
Does the case raise a civil liberties or civil rights issue?
- freedom of speech, press, religion, and association;
- due process;
- equal protection; and
- voting rights;
- discrimination based on disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or national origin; and
- police reform.
Involves government entities
Because of the nature of civil liberties claims, only rarely does the ACLU of Oklahoma take a case that does not involve the action or inaction by a governmental entity.
If you would like to find out more about what kind of cases the ACLU will take, please see the national ACLU website.
How likely is it that a court will reach the civil liberties issue?
Does not involve factual disputes
Generally, the ACLU takes cases that do not involve complicated disputes of fact, and prefers 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 and has credible evidence of her own. Because employment claims are usually very fact dependent, it is not often that the ACLU of Oklahoma takes this kind of case.
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 volunteer and staff attorneys that it is difficult for us to devote attorney time to resolving factual disputes.
Impact on Civil Liberties (writ large)
We also consider the potential impact a case may have on civil liberties at large, including:
- Will the case set a civil liberties precedent?
- Will the case strengthen an existing but ignored precedent?
- What are the prospects of success and the risks of losing?
- How likely is the issue to recur?
- What educational opportunities does the case present?
- What resources would have to be allocated to a particular case.
- What costs and administrative burdens will the case impose in relation to available ACLU of Oklahoma staff and funds?
- Are volunteer attorneys available?
Typical cases not accepted
Keep in mind that the ACLU of Oklahoma does NOT generally accept these types of case:
- A person has been fired from a job without a good reason or just cause;
- Domestic matters (divorce, child custody, wills, etc.);
- A person is being denied benefits, such as workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, or Social Security;
- Landlord / tenant disputes;
- Immigration matters; and,
- Criminal cases or complaints about a person’s attorney in a criminal case — the ACLU considers 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 or where the statute or ordinance under which the person is charged is subject to constitutional attack.
Source: Oklahoma ACLU