ACLU of Illinois Names Colleen K. Connell Executive Director

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
November 16, 2000 12:00 am

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CHICAGO--The American Civil Liberties Union today named an experienced civil rights litigator and renowned advocate for women's rights in Illinois as its new Executive Director.

The organization's Board of Directors appointed Colleen K. Connell to the position at its monthly meeting this afternoon in Chicago. She assumes the post in January 2001, following the retirement of Jay A. Miller who led the organization for more than two decades.

Ms. Connell's selection follows a six-month, nationwide search, directed by a committee of the organization's Board and assisted by an outside executive search firm. She becomes the first woman attorney to lead the State of Illinois' most active and effective organization dedicated to protecting freedom, liberty, equality and justice.

"Colleen's extraordinary qualifications and talents are a perfect match for our organization as we move into a new century," said Michael Cook, President of the ACLU Board and chair of the Board's search committee, in announcing the selection. "In short, she is the best person in the nation for this job."

"Colleen has distinguished herself as a lawyer. She has distinguished herself as an expert in all areas of civil liberties law. She has distinguished herself with a vision for leading the organization. The ACLU is fortunate to have this fusion of talent, experience and leadership in the position of Executive Director," he said.

Ms. Connell currently serves as Associate Legal Director and Director of the Reproductive Rights Project for the ACLU of Illinois. She has directed the organization's litigation efforts involving constitutional rights of privacy and protecting the rights of Illinois citizens to make decisions concerning reproductive matters and child-bearing, without undue governmental restriction.

Her legal practice has taken her to courts of all levels in both the state and federal justice system. She has argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on important matters involving the rights of women to control their own reproductive health.

In 1999, she presented an argument to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals against the so-called partial birth abortion law that was adopted in Illinois and other states. Those laws were struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States in June of 2000.

"Colleen's decades of work on the front lines of defending civil liberties have given her the insight experience and insight necessary to assume this important role," said ACLU of Illinois Legal Director Harvey Grossman, who served as a member of the search committee. "Her commitment to our mission means that the organization will continue to work vigorously to the protect the rights and liberties of all persons."

Ms. Connell joined the staff of the ACLU of Illinois in 1984. A native of North Dakota, she attended North Dakota State University and was graduated from the Iowa Law School. Ms. Connell resides in Chicago with her husband and two children.

Ms. Connell takes over leadership of an experienced staff, including a legal staff whose senior members have many years of service to the organization.

The ACLU of Illinois membership currently stands at more than 13,000 individuals all across the state. In recent years, the organization has won major victories to protect racial and ethnic minorities from being victims of racial profiling, to bring much needed improvements to Illinois' child welfare agency and to limit the authority of police to conduct mass arrests of young people on Chicago streets (by challenging Chicago's anti-gang loitering ordinance).

The ACLU of Illinois is a non-partisan organization committed to protecting freedom, liberty, equality and justice for all persons across the state. The organization directs aggressive legislative and educational programs in addition to its traditional work in the courts.

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