2010 Annual Report
Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes” ("Who watches the watchmen?”). That age-old question was posed by a Harford County judge after ACLU moved to dismiss the criminal wiretap charges brought against our client, Anthony Graber, by the Maryland State Police and Harford County State’s Attorney. Graber was arrested after posting a recording on YouTube of his encounter with an officer in plain clothes who stopped him on the interstate with his gun drawn. Thanks to the Maryland ACLU, Graber’s high profile case ended swiftly with a victory for the First Amendment.
Sometimes justice is swift. Sometimes it demands years of dedication and struggle. And always it demands constant vigilance. This year saw long-running cases bear fruit.
We witnessed civil rights history-in-the-making when Somerset County swore in its first-ever African American County Commissioner, former ACLU client Craig Mathies. It was the culmination of three decades of ACLU work enforcing the federal Voting Rights Act on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where the legacy of slavery left many counties with large black populations but no high level African American officials. Starting in the 1980s, ACLU, representing local NAACP Branches, changed the political landscape, with Somerset County being only the most recent victory.
We also celebrated a victory for Fourth Amendment rights with our lawsuit challenging Baltimore City Police’s widespread problem of improper arrests. Our clients were arrested for innocent conduct like talking with friends, sitting on their front steps, or picketing. They were strip searched, held for many hours and even days, and then released without charge. Under a court-monitored settlement, police agreed to an independent auditor and far-reaching reforms of their arrest and charging practices.
To expand our civil liberties coverage in the Free State, we opened a field office in Takoma Park in July, celebrating with a lively open house. We also expanded our virtual reach with big growth in Facebook “fans” and a new Twitter page. You can find us online and help us spread ACLU’s message and grow “fans of freedom and equality.” We’re keeping Maryland’s on-the-go civil libertarians informed!
Speaking of ACLU “reach,” the Maryland ACLU is proud of our vibrant national ACLU, which is celebrating its 90th year – from the Palmer Raids in 1919, to the post 9/11 abuse of federal power. Happy Birthday, ACLU. We’re glad you were born! ACLU of Maryland is a passionate protector of the rights and liberties of everyone in the Free State, but we could not do it without you! We owe our successes to the support of foundations, individual donors, hundreds of pro bono attorneys and volunteers, and thousands of ACLU members across the state. It is stalwarts like you who help the ACLU, “watch the watchmen.”