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Tell the Governor You’d Rather Not: Say No to Secrecy on Death

OP-ED: The legislature should reject the governor’s amendments and embark on a long overdue discussion of whether Virginia should join the 18 states that have made the ultimate humane choice to discontinue the death penalty entirely. read more »

Death in Jail: More Questions than Answers

BLOG: Our thoughts are with Mr. Mitchell’s family. It should not take a “critical incident,” as the report calls Mr. Mitchell’s death, to spur the state into action. read more »

A Student’s Perspective on Race Relations & Public Education

GUEST BLOG: If the purpose of public schools is to educate young people, then I think young people would agree that school needs to be a forum for conversation about these kinds of issues. read more »

Release the Names Now: Transparency Without Accountability Won’t Build Trust

OP-ED: Providing basic facts, including the names of the officers, as soon as possible after a critical incident is absolutely essential to building or rebuilding trust. read more »

Virginia Wisely Rejects Secret Police

BLOG: For now, at least, this dystopic vision can remain just a fantasy for law enforcement. read more »

All Viewpoints Welcome in a Public Forum

BLOG: While certain displays might continue to offend some patrons’ sensibilities, it should be clear now that the library has created a public forum. read more »

Please Welcome Charlie Schmidt, Our New Public Policy Associate!

charlieschmidtBy Charlie Schmidt
ACLU-VA Public Policy Associate

I am honored to be working for the ACLU of Virginia as its new Public Policy Associate.

I have nearly 20 years of experience at lobbying, advocacy and community organizing in Virginia. I have worked on campaigns addressing prosecutorial misconduct, citizen control of police review boards, ban the box and proper hiring practice for people with criminal records, as well as education, immigration and environmental justice issues.
Just prior to joining the ACLU of Virginia, I ran my own law practice which provided sliding-scale legal services to marginalized populations of race, class and gender minorities. I focused on serving the needs of my individual clients while identifying and advocating for larger social justice concerns within the community.

I recently brought a petition for review against the Richmond Public School Board for its arbitrary and capricious rezoning of elementary schools. With the help of a broad coalition of parents, teachers and community activists, I was able to advance my client’s case past motions to dismiss. This was a victory in and of itself given the 30-day statute of limitations, high standard of review and presumption by the courts of the validity of an elected board’s actions. The School Board delayed the case for two years and during that time my client’s daughter began to regress in her studies and grades at her newly zoned school. When my client pulled her daughter out of Richmond Public Schools, the Board jumped at the chance to ask the court to dismiss the suit for lack of standing, which it did. It is unfortunate that we didn’t get a chance to argue the merits of the case.

Many of my clients have been small nonprofits and social advocacy groups addressing issues in the community relating to civil rights, education, immigration and police brutality. This afforded me unique opportunities to build many community relations. I hope to use these relationships to help build the ranks of advocates and advance the causes that are important to the ACLU of Virginia.

To help offset the costs of a sliding-scale practice, I was also an adjunct professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University. There I taught classes on civil rights, political theory and gender issues in the law. In class I would help students understand the deeper political context of seminal court cases. Quite often the arguments in cases revolve around civil liberties versus the greater good of society; not just the viewpoints of conservative or liberal judges. It is a political conflict that is written into our Constitution and one that the ACLU of Virginia defends each day.

I am excited to put theory to practice as the new Public Policy Associate.

Do You Want Our Business or Would You Prefer We Take it Elsewhere?

GUEST BLOG: We must keep Virginia open for business for all. read more »

Some Virginia Lawmakers Flunk High School Civics

BLOG: Why do so many state lawmakers need a lesson in Civics 101? They seem to be ready to use any tactic, no matter how far-fetched, to punish Planned Parenthood for providing legal abortion services to women. read more »

ACLU-VA Opposes Denying Government Contracts Based on Speech

POSITION: It is unconstitutional to deny government contracts based on speech because that action amounts to an attempt to suppress free speech. read more »

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