2013 Annual Report
The ACLU of Maryland is your Bill of Rights defender, and we’re in it for the long haul. For more than 80 years, the ACLU of Maryland has championed freedom, equality, and justice. This year is particularly special – our Executive Director, Susan Goering, celebrates 25 years with the organization. Susan joined the staff in 1986 as our first fulltime Legal Director. She had an immediate impact: Susan and then-ACLU Board Member Claudia Wright drove to the Eastern Shore to visit antiquated jails – one in Talbot County had once held prisoner Frederick Douglass in the early 1800’s – and got a federal court to declare the conditions in Dorchester County unconstitutional.
Susan knows such small victories are crucial, but it is also important to think big. Upon coming to Maryland, she was immediately struck by the continuing structural legacy of Maryland’s Jim Crow history. So, starting in the 1980s under her leadership, the ACLU of Maryland mounted long-running cases aimed at transforming institutional and cultural practices that perpetuate segregation and isolation from the mainstream opportunities most Americans expect.
Susan was the mastermind behind some of Maryland's biggest civil rights cases of the last several decades – including Bradford v. Board of Education, whose judicial ruling spurred the Thornton Commission and its state-wide funding formula weighted to help poor children, children needing special education, and children speaking English as a second language. The case laid the foundation for this year’s legislation to leverage bonds for an innovative $1 billion school facilities plan in Baltimore.
It was Susan’s unique ability to see the structural issues behind social problems that spurred her to bring the landmark lawsuit Thompson v. HUD, which has helped thousands of African American families who lived in Baltimore’s segregated public housing move to areas of opportunity around the region. The difference in health and opportunity for children has been tremendous.
After becoming Executive Director in 1996, Susan grew the ACLU of Maryland from just a few staff members to nearly 20. We have a docket of more than 50 cases, many of which are litigated with pro bono counsel. Some of these have been huge cases, such as the "Driving While Black" case against the Maryland State Police; litigation on behalf of same-sex couples seeking marriage equality; and high profile public information litigation against the Maryland State Police for spying on peaceful protestors.
Susan continues to take to heart the warning given long ago by the ACLU’s founder, Roger Baldwin: “No battle for civil liberties ever stays won.” The ACLU was birthed in 1920 amid deportations, warrantless seizures, and other abuses of power by that era’s national security apparatus. Now, we face new abuses in the form of mass spying by the National Security Agency, mass incarceration of communities of color, and rampant attacks on personal privacy and reproductive freedom.
But like Susan, the ACLU of Maryland is visionary, unafraid of challenges, eager to draw connections between the struggle for rights of seemingly disparate groups, and dedicated to working in coalition and partnership with allies of any political stripe to advance civil liberties and civil rights.
On behalf of our 14,000 members in Maryland, thank you for being one of those partners.
With gratitude and pride,
ACLU of Maryland