Staff Attorney, Jails & First Amendment - ACLU of Southern California

Affiliate Offices
December 7, 2017

The ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) seeks a Staff Attorney to join its Jails and First Amendment Projects.



The ACLU Foundation of Southern California is the court ordered monitor of conditions of confinement and medical services within all Los Angeles County jail facilities. The Jails Project also monitors jails conditions in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Jails and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office’s Jails. “Conditions” refers to beds, change of clothing, meals, gay/trans classification, outdoor recreation, showers, telephones, overcrowding, commissary, protective custody, religious services, mail, allegations of violence and retaliation and other similar issues that may arise while in custody.

We tackle problems through creative campaigns that involve legal advocacy and litigation, policy advocacy, and community education and organizing. Our advocacy focuses on local Southern California issues. We work in partnership with local community organizations and work closely with our ACLU colleagues working for economic justice, criminal justice reform, education reform, LGBT, gender justice, reproductive justice, police practices and immigration reform.

The Project's current priorities include:

  • Monitoring conditions of confinement, including medical services in the LA, OC, and Santa Barbara County Jails.
  • Protecting the rights of individuals who are incarcerated, such as: pre-trial, women, mental health consumers, survivors of excessive use of force and retaliation, individuals who have mobility impairments, LGBTQIA, those who practice minority religions.


The First Amendment is a cornerstone of our free society. The ACLU of Southern California is dedicated to ensuring that all people are free to express themselves – politically, artistically, socially, and through other forms of personal expression – without government interference. The ACLU SoCal is also dedicated to preserving peoples’ rights to freedom of religions and belief, while preventing government efforts to favor religion over non-religion, or any religion or sect over others.

The ACLU SoCal is also committed to advocating for strong open government laws and – when necessary bringing cases under those laws – to ensuring that government is transparent and

that people have access to public meetings and government records, which enable them to hold the government accountable.

We engage in litigation, legislative and public advocacy and public education to further our goals.


We are looking for a dynamic, experienced, creative, and thoughtful attorney who will support and help develop litigation as well as policy advocacy, community education/mobilization, and digital/media campaigns. The attorney will focus equally on both jails and first amendment issues but may shift as needed. Initially, the position will be focused more heavily on litigation and legal advocacy – supporting existing litigation, helping to develop new litigation and possibly leading smaller litigation – but will grow more deeply into other forms of advocacy with time and depending on need. In the immediate term, the attorney will support litigation, legal advocacy, and policy advocacy concerning condition of confinement in jails located in Southern California, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and government transparency litigation.

The attorney will also engage in advocacy, policy reform, and education work on alternatives to incarceration, ending new jail construction as well as expanding statutory protections for speech and expanding government transparency as opportunities arise.

This position is funded for three years, with a possibility for future extension contingent upon additional funding. The position would be based in our Los Angeles office. The Staff Attorney will report to the Director of the Jails and First Amendment Projects and will work closely with legal, policy, organizing, legislative and communications staff at ACLU SoCal, as well as a variety of coalitions and community-based and advocacy organizations.


Litigation and Policy Advocacy

  • Investigate, develop and help litigate high-impact cases in federal and state courts; serving as lead and co-counsel and working in conjunction with other staff within the ACLU SoCal, national ACLU, and partner organizations. This includes conducting factual and legal research, analysis of complex or novel constitutional questions, drafting advocacy letters, interviewing clients and potential witnesses, preparing memoranda, drafting pleadings, briefs and correspondence, conducting discovery, arguing motions, trying cases, handling appeals, and negotiating settlements.
  • Write amicus briefs and identify cases in which the Jails or First Amendment Project should consider filing an amicus brief.
  • Build and implement effective advocacy and policy/legislation implementation campaigns, alone and in a team, to effect change on the local and state level with government agencies.
  • Conduct legal analysis of legislation; draft legislation, regulatory comments, reports, policy briefs and coalition sign-on letters; lobby for bills and prepare testimony and briefings.

Community Engagement, Media and Digital Advocacy

  • Devise and present engaging "know your rights" presentations, trainings, and engage in public speaking.
  • Devise and strategically distribute "know your rights" and other educational materials.
  • Write op-eds, blog posts, and social media content.
  • Develop and deepen relationships with community partners, coalitions, and stakeholders.
  • Provide technical support and strategic leadership to community groups, advocates and organizers in the region.
  • Organize, lead, and participate in community education events and meetings.

People Management

  • Hire and manage fellows, interns, and volunteers.


Applicants must have excellent research, writing, analytic, interpersonal, communication, and time-management skills. Applicants must also have patience, emotional intelligence and cultural competency, including the ability to participate in, create and sustain inclusive and engaging spaces for people of all races/ethnicities, genders, ages, classes, and geographies. Applicants must be able to occasionally work evenings, weekends, and travel throughout Southern California.


The ACLU SoCal anticipates hiring an attorney with approximately three-five years' experience preferred. Being admitted to practice law in the State of California is also strongly preferred.

Strong candidates will have demonstrated experience devising and implementing advocacy and litigation as part of a creative response to civil rights violations in affected communities; experience with litigation as well as other forms of advocacy and community engagement; experience conducting complex constitutional legal analysis; relevant experience working with people who are incarcerated and law enforcement and familiarity with correctional settings, relevant bodies of law and community partners; be a flexible team player but also comfortable working independently and taking initiative. Spanish language competency is also a plus.


Salary based on experience. Benefits include generous health, dental, vision, and life insurance plans as well as matching 401(k) plan and ample vacation and sick leave.


Please submit résumé, cover letter, and writing sample to (NO Phone Calls PLEASE) or mail to:

HR Department – Jails & First Amendment

ACLU of Southern California 1313 W. 8th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017

DEADLINE: December 15, 2017 or until filled.

ACLU SoCal is an equal opportunity employer and does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of any status or condition protected by applicable federal or state law. We consider qualified applicants with criminal histories, and encourage applications from women, people of color, persons with disabilities, LGBT individuals, veterans, and people with arrest records and/or convictions.

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