A look back: 2017 ACLU of Michigan Lawyers Summit

POST BY Hannah Pollard-Garber Post-Graduate Civil Liberties Fellow
February 07, 2017

Recently the ACLU of Michigan brought together more than 400 lawyers and law students to tackle the monumental—and growing—task of defending civil liberties in the age of Trump.

Held at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, the summit gave the attorneys opportunities to share ideas, strategies and stories on topics ranging from immigration to transgender rights to school-to-prison pipeline.

But perhaps more importantly, the event this weekend served as both reminder and reiteration of their commitment to defend the Constitution in the face of a presidency marked by authoritarian pronouncements and disdain for checks and balances.

Since the election of Donald Trump, the public’s concern for the protection of civil rights has grown exponentially, hastened along by anxiety over actions such as Trump’s recent Executive Order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. As a result, the support for the ACLU has soared to inspiring heights.

In turn, the ACLU has become even more galvanized—with the packed summit serving as proof positive.

“The tremendous energy generated by the summit, and the eagerness of 400 Michigan lawyers and law students to roll up their sleeves to fight back, gives me hope that we'll win,” said ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg shortly after the gathering. 

One of the highlights of the summit was the keynote address by ACLU National Legal Director David Cole. Cole reminded, and reassured, those gathered that “if we act, we build hope.”

And act we have. So far, the ACLU has taken President Trump to court in an effort to ensure public access to financial records, to ensure there are no conflicts of interest. We were the first to stand against his “Muslim ban,” going to court 24 hours after his unconstitutional executive order against immigrants and marking a major legal win when the courts suspended his order.

And now, with the summit, we have helped to outfit 400 dedicated social-justice attorneys with a few more tools to resist injustice and defend freedom.

Together with these 400 attorneys we will continue to act and, as David Cole suggests, continue to build hope.