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Steven R. Shapiro

Former ACLU Legal Director


Steven R. Shapiro is the former Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation’s oldest and largest civil liberties organization. In this capacity, he directed a staff of approximately 90 full-time lawyers who maintain a large and active docket of civil liberties cases around the country. Those cases cover a broad range of issues, including: free speech, racial justice, religious freedom, due process, privacy, reproductive and women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, gay rights, voting rights, prisoner’s rights, and the death penalty.

Shapiro served as the ACLU’s Legal Director from 1993 – 2016, and served as Associate Legal Director from 1987–1993. During that time, he appeared as counsel or co-counsel on more than 200 ACLU briefs submitted to the United States Supreme Court.

Shapiro is also an adjunct professor of constitutional law at Columbia Law School, and a frequent speaker and writer on civil liberties issues.

After graduating from Harvard Law School and spending one year as law clerk to Judge J. Edward Lumbard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Shapiro joined the New York Civil Liberties Union in 1976. He was a member of the Board of Directors of Human Rights First for twenty years and is now a member of the Policy Committee of Human Rights Watch, as well as the Advisory Committees of the U.S. Program and Asia Program of Human Rights Watch.