In 2023, the ACLU of Connecticut and ACLU Foundation of Connecticut will continue fighting for everyone’s civil rights and liberties. We’ll be advocating for voting rights, accountability for state’s attorneys, civil rights, stopping police from lying to children and adults in interrogations, ending solitary confinement of people living with mental illness in prisons, defending breast and chestfeeding rights in public spaces, and more.
Are you ready to join us?
2023 Legislative Session
The 2023 legislative session kicked off on January 4, 2023. Here are some of the things the ACLU of Connecticut will be advocating for at the Connecticut General Assembly:
Creating Early Voting
Connecticut voters have spoken by voting in favor of creating early voting here. For the first time ever, Connecticut voters have the chance to take advantage of early voting. But first, the legislature has to pass a law to determine what early voting will look like. This is our chance to ensure we shape democracy to be as accessible to all voters. Connecticut voters want and need inclusive, expansive early voting options that make voting more accessible for every voter, especially voters who already face the biggest barriers to the ballot box. This means at least 14 days of early voting in the 30 days before Election Day, including at least one Saturday and one Sunday, with consistent hours that include those outside of a 9-5 work schedule, at locations that are accessible for everyone.
CT Voting Rights Act
Civil rights activists, in a Black-led movement, marched, organized, and died in the fight for Black people to have equal access to the ballot box. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a crowning achievement of their work. But now, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned its back on the Voting Rights Act, and states like Connecticut must fill the void and carry that civil rights legacy into the future. Connecticut has a chance to be a national leader in protecting the right to vote. The Connecticut Voting Rights Act, modeled on the federal Voting Rights Act, would help Connecticut address and prevent discrimination against voters of color.
Prosecutors hold people’s lives in their hands but have almost no outside oversight. It’s time to change that. We’re advocating for State’s Attorneys to have external performance reviews of each Judicial District every two years through the Criminal Justice Commission.
Police Deceptive Interrogation Tactics
Right now, it's perfectly legal in Connecticut for police to lie to people during interrogations. Police shouldn’t be able to lie to anyone, especially in interrogations, and especially to children facing interrogations. These deceptive interrogation tactics include police lying to a person about evidence, penalties they could suffer, or leniency they could get, all to coerce someone into confessing to a crime or giving a statement. We’re aiming to end that.
CT Civil Rights Act
If the government violates your rights, you should have the opportunity to try holding the government accountable by suing in court. Nationally, the Civil Rights Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, was designed to protect Black people’s lives and rights by making sure that all of us, of all races, can sue if the government violates our right to equal protection under the law. But in 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court turned its back on civil rights with its decision in Vega v Tekoh, decimating the legal rights established in the famous Miranda v Arizona court case. The federal government is turning its back on the Civil Rights Act of 1871, and so it is up to the states – and state courts – to fill that gap in civil rights protections. But Connecticut has no state-level equivalent of the Civil Rights Act of 1871/The Ku Klux Klan Act. This means, when it comes to Connecticut civil rights laws, we often have no direct way to sue in state court if the government violates our fundamental rights. Connecticut can be a leader in civil rights by passing its own Connecticut Civil Rights Act.
In the Courts
The ACLU Foundation of Connecticut legal team is fighting for civil rights and liberties.
In Beatty v Lamont, a federal class-action lawsuit, we represent Teresa Beatty and more than 30,000 other Connecticut residents in an effort to eliminate Connecticut’s prison debt law, under which every person incarcerated by the State of Connecticut “owes” the state for each day they spent in prison. This debt follows them for decades, decimating inheritances from deceased loved ones, proceeds from lawsuits (even for harms done to them by the State in prison), and, ultimately, anything a person leaves upon their death. Because of current and historic systemic racism, this disproportionately falls on Black and Latinx people in Connecticut, serving as another mechanism for preventing the accrual of intergenerational wealth among people of color. We’re challenging Connecticut’s prison debt law under the excessive fines clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court recently heard oral arguments in the case.
Breastfeeding Rights & Civil Rights in Public Places
In Amanda R. Whitman-Singh v Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and City of Norwalk, we’re representing a Norwalk mother in a lawsuit that seeks to uphold the right to breastfeed without restriction in public schools under Connecticut’s anti-discrimination law. In 2017, Mandy Whitman-Singh went to a classroom at a Norwalk school to discuss one of her children. Ms. Whitman-Singh began to breastfeed her younger child, when a teacher told her, “you can’t do that in here.” The court sided with Ms. Whitman-Singh this August, but Norwalk appealed. In October 2022 the ACLU Foundation of Connecticut joined the lawsuit as Ms. Whitman-Singh’s lawyers. This case is about the right to breastfeed, which is protected under Connecticut’s anti-discrimination laws. And it’s also about making sure all of our state’s anti-discrimination laws apply in public places, including public schools.
In Town of Avon v Sastre, we’re representing local attorney J.R. Sastre in a fight to make public records public. In 2019, an employee of the Avon police department met with the town manager and provided him with a log of misconduct that the employee witnessed the chief of police, Mark Rinaldo, perpetrate on the job. The town manager gave a copy of the log to Avon's contract counsel, who, relying on the log, assisted the town in reaching an agreement to pay Rinaldo $115,000 in exchange for his immediate retirement. The town manager gave his copy of the log back to the employee and told them not to bring it to work again. Local attorney J.R. Sastre made a public records request for all documents relating to Rinaldo's retirement agreement, and Avon told him that it had avoided writing down the reasons for Rinaldo's departure in any form. However, it acknowledged that it was withholding a copy of the misconduct log. Sastre challenged the town’s withholding at the Freedom of Information Commission, and the Commission sided with him. The Superior Court sided with Sastre as well. But now, Avon is appealing to the Appellate Court. People have a right to know what the government is doing in our names – especially when the government agency in question has handcuffs and guns. The ACLU Foundation of Connecticut is fighting for government transparency in this case.
Our legal team also continues to fight in court in cases to end in-cell shackling of people living with mental illness in Connecticut prisons (Disability Rights CT v DOC), to ensure transgender people can access gender-affirming medical and mental healthcare in prison (Clark v Quiros), and to defend the right to record the police (Massimino v Benoit).