Chris Hansen Senior National Staff Counsel
Chris Hansen has been affiliated with the ACLU as an attorney since 1973, when he joined the staff of the ACLU-sponsored Mental Health Law Project. During that time, and later as director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Mental Patients’ Rights Project, Mr. Hansen was the key litigator in the landmark “Willowbrook” case (NYSARC v. Carey), which became the impetus for a nationwide revolution in care of mentally retarded people.
Since 1984, Mr. Hansen has worked as an attorney with the national ACLU, where he holds the position of senior staff counsel. In that capacity, he was lead counsel in Reno v. ACLU, the ACLU’s historic and successful challenge to federal Internet content regulations. He is also lead counsel in the first — and equally successful — challenges to state censorship statutes in Georgia (ACLU v. Miller) and New York (ALA v. Pataki). In the New York case, the court found that states cannot regulate the Internet.
An expert in complex litigation, Mr. Hansen has acted as lead counsel in a wide variety of landmark cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, a reopened case that forced a Kansas school district to honor the Supreme Court’s mandate and desegregate the public schools; and G.L. v. Zumwalt, a major challenge to the foster care system in Kansas City as well as numerous suits across the country seeking to reform state or county child welfare agencies. He also authored the ACLU’s amicus brief in Jones v. Clinton, in which he successfully argued that the President is not entitled to automatic immunity for acts taken prior to his Presidency.
In 1991, he argued a school desegregation case (Freeman v. Pitts) before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of children from a school district in suburban Atlanta.
Mr. Hansen received his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School and holds an undergraduate degree from Carleton College.
He has lectured at law schools including Yale, University of Utah, Rutgers, Pace, Touro and New York University. He has written extensively on civil liberties issues and lectures regularly at legal, psychiatric and social work professional associations throughout the country, and appears frequently on television, radio and in the press as an expert on civil liberties.
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