Legal Director, Puerto Rico Chapter of the ACLU [PR-03]
American Civil Liberties Union Foundation
San Juan, Puerto Rico
For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Whether it’s ending mass incarceration, achieving full equality for the LGBT community, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age, or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach. With more than a million members, activists, and supporters, the ACLU is a nationwide organization that fights tirelessly in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., for the principle that every individual’s rights must be protected equally under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, national origin, record of arrest or conviction.
The ACLU of Puerto Rico operates with a four-member staff, consisting of Executive Director, Legal Director, Legislative Attorney and Administrative Assistant. Our offices are located in the Hato Rey Financial District of San Juan, Puerto Rico. We work in the courts, in the legislatures and on the streets to advocate for racial and economic justice, free speech, freedom of religion, privacy and equality before the law for all residents of Puerto Rico.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico seeks a sophisticated and experienced Legal Director to lead its civil liberties and civil rights agenda. The Legal Director is responsible for recruiting, cultivating and overseeing the ACLU of Puerto Rico’s cooperating attorney program, through which solo private practitioners and law firms provide pro bono assistance; and, the law Intern program. The Legal Director is also responsible for developing attorney and law student Fellowship opportunities. The Legal Director reports to the Executive Director and works in close collaboration with other staff, including the legislative attorney, associate and volunteer attorneys.
The Legal Director is a member of the ACLU of Puerto Rico's senior leadership team and provides vision and direction for the ACLU of Puerto Rico’s legal program. The Legal Director is responsible for overall management of the legal department and its docket, staff, and network of cooperating attorneys. The ideal candidate will be a skilled and innovative constitutional rights litigator, a superior manager, and an inspiring leader. Strong writing and editing skills are essential. Candidates should have the capacity to write for a popular audience and should have engaged in scholarship with a demonstrated capacity to communicate with academic communities. Litigation experience should evince an ability to develop and pursue litigation as part of an integrated advocacy strategy.
The candidate should maintain a collaborative nature; and, an established presence within the legal community is also a desirable attribute.
Never before has Puerto Rico faced the wrenching challenges to its democratic freedom and civil liberties that it is now facing. Recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions clearly limit Puerto Rico’s political power, and affirm that its political power lays in Congress. Meanwhile, Congress has delegated to a Fiscal Board powers that generally lay in an elected government, and we are facing a Board-controlled bankruptcy proceeding under the PROMESA law. These bankruptcy proceedings have left Puerto Rico with no immediate judicial recourse for civil liberties violations, having led to judicial stays on all court challenges against the government. Puerto Rico is now the only jurisdiction with no immediate access to courts on claims of civil and constitutional rights violations by government.
These limitations are further exacerbated by a post-hurricane Maria state of emergency that continues to this day, causing a mass human exodus that has divided families and led to additional civil liberties challenges. The ACLU of Puerto Rico is committed to taking on these challenges head on and working on containing further civil liberties violations, and to guarantee that the fundamental rights of the people are secure. The Legal Director will be an important component in our concerted effort to fully restore the rights of the people of Puerto Rico.
Legal program leadership: The Legal Director must develop and pursue a strategic vision for the legal program that advances the ACLU-PR’s overall civil liberties and civil rights agenda; develop potential cases and legal theories; manage a growing docket of cases; assign cases; and work with attorneys to develop litigation strategies, including strategies that use the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s constitution to expand rights beyond federal law. The Legal Director must also ensure that the litigation is consistent with ACLU policy; develop relationships with law firms, legal organizations, and other coalition partners to advance issues of mutual concern; and pursue strategies to resolve matters short of litigation, as appropriate. The Legal Director must also collaborate and communicate with the Executive Director, and with other members of the National ACLU Staff on matters of strategy and direction.
Management: The Legal Director must attract, develop, train, and supervise associate contract and cooperating attorneys, and support legal assistants, law interns and fellows, holding them accountable to ACLU standards of performance; oversee recruitment, mentoring, and professional development of legal staff, law fellows and student interns, consistent with ACLU’s commitment to equity and fairness; and supervise the management of the intake and referral unit, which screens requests for assistance, conducts initial factual research, provides information and referrals, and maintains intake records, resources, and databases.
Cooperating attorney program: The Legal Director must maintain and enhance the cooperating attorney program, in which attorneys in private practice handle ACLU-PR cases on a volunteer basis; pursue strategies to increase pro bono participation in ACLU-PR’s work; represent the ACLU of Puerto Rico in various law-related events; and develop strong working relationships with area law firms.
Legal resource and advocacy: The Legal Director must provide analysis of court rulings and occasional legislative bills for staff; articulate the ACLU’s views to the public and the media as requested by the Executive Director. Coordinate and collaborate with the national ACLU legal department, using it as a resource as appropriate; and engage actively with the Puerto Rico Bar Association and other local law associations to advance the ACLU-PR's issues, mission and organization.
Collaboration with others: The Legal Director must function collaboratively with other ACLU-PR’s staff members in an effort to maximize the effectiveness of the multi-disciplinary program of litigation, advocacy, public education and community organizing.
Reporting, records management, and general duties: The Legal Director must prepare reports of litigation activities for the Executive Director and as required by the National ACLU, and the Puerto Rico Supreme Court; ensure the maintenance of accurate and easily retrievable case files, legal research, and administrative files; attend ACLU-PR and ACLU events, including occasional meetings with donors; help facilitate smooth functioning of the office, and develop a solid understanding of office protocols and culture; and accept other assignments from the Executive Director.
EXPERIENCE AND QUALIFICATIONS
The candidate should possess the following qualifications:
Twelve years of litigation experience, which should include substantial Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and federal constitutional law experience. Such experience should involve an understanding of the development of constitutional doctrine and the application of civil liberties principles to contemporary controversies. A J.D. from an ABA accredited law school is required. A graduate level law degree is a plus. The successful candidate will be licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, be admitted to the Federal District Court for Puerto Rico, and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The Legal Director should also be fully bilingual (Spanish/English) and possess the ability to draft legal documents and argue cases in both English and Spanish.
The candidate should possess management ability, including experience in supervising attorneys and support staff, and in managing and encouraging volunteers, both students and professionals. Superior ability to plan effective strategies, establish realistic objectives, maintains momentum, and evaluate progress. Excellent organizational and time management skills to manage one’s own work as well as others, and to assure completion of assignments and projects.
A track record of successful leadership through strong communication, collaboration, and relationship-building. Ability and flexibility to work in both service and leadership roles with many diverse players and constituencies. Excellent problem-solving skills and demonstrated skills in participatory decision-making. Non-profit experience is a plus.
Excellent analytical, writing, and speaking skills are a must as is demonstrated ability to write clearly and precisely. The ability to communicate effectively with plaintiffs, opposing counsel, staff, volunteers, and the general public is essential. A demonstrated ability to convey difficult civil liberties issues to the general public is critical.
A commitment to the goals and mission of the ACLU and exemplary professional workplace behavior, unimpeachable integrity, and a commitment to the values of reliability, respect, accountability, and compassion is expected.
A demonstrated commitment to diversity and building an equitable and inclusive work environment; a personal approach that values the individual and respects differences of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and socio- economic circumstance.
Competence in the use of Microsoft Office, electronic databases, and electronic legal research is required.
This position is exempt, and requires a willingness to work beyond a standard workday, including evening and weekend meetings and events. The ability and willingness to travel, with and outside of Puerto Rico, when required is essential.
The ACLU offers a generous and comprehensive compensation and benefits package, commensurate with experience and within the parameters of the ACLU compensation scale.
HOW TO APPLY
To apply, email a letter of application, resume and three professional references (identifying their relationship to you and including their email and telephone number) to HRjobsPR@aclu.org. Reference [PR-03] in subject line. Please note that this is not the general ACLU email address. This email address is specific to the ACLU PR postings. In order to ensure your application is received please make certain it is sent to the correct e-mail address.
Please indicate in your cover letter where you learned of this career opportunity.
Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
This job description provides a general but not comprehensive list of the essential responsibilities and qualifications required. It does not represent a contract of employment. The ACLU reserves the right to change the job description and/or posting at any time without advance notice.
The ACLU is an equal opportunity employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. The ACLU encourages applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status and record of arrest or conviction.
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The ACLU comprises two separate corporate entities, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation are national organizations with the same overall mission, and share office space and employees. The ACLU has two separate corporate entities in order to do a broad range of work to protect civil liberties. This job posting refers collectively to the two organizations under the name “ACLU.”