2023 has arrived! We at the ACLU of Florida have plenty of work in the coming months to ensure the protection of civil liberties for all Floridians. This includes opportunities to protect those who are directly impacted by broken legislation, pursue new legal challenges, educate Floridians about their rights, and empower communities to take action for our democracy.
We wouldn’t be here without your support!
While we continue to set up our advocacy in the new year, we wanted to show you what you made possible last year. Throughout 2022, the ACLU of Florida has made several strides to defend our rights as Floridians, protect our democracy, and ensure our elected officials are held accountable. Here’s an overview of our most essential 2022 work:
- January 11 to March 14: During the legislative session, we engaged individuals across the state to contact their legislators on key issues impacting Floridians. Floridians across the state contacted their Florida representatives and senators on reproductive rights, anti-free speech bills, anti-immigrant policies, and many other issue areas. By the end of session, we sent 35,034 text messages and called 642 supporters to take action. We testified on priority legislation, spoke out at press conferences and rallies across the state, and led Florida’s Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform efforts.
- January 20: Along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center, and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, we filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Neville Brooks, a legal permanent resident from Jamaica who was detained by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on false suspicion of being in the U.S. unlawfully.
- January 31: A Florida federal court ruled to enforce a 2021 class-action Consent Decree. This decision legally required the Broward Sheriff’s Office to improve COVID-19 conditions for 3,600 people detained in the Broward County Jail. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people incarcerated in jails and prisons all over the country have been uniquely at risk of infection, injury, and even death because of failure to implement meaningful health measures.
- February 2: Through advocacy efforts led by the Shut Down Glades Coalition, 17 members of the U.S. House urged the Biden Administration in a letter to immediately close the Glades County Detention Center (Glades), an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prison located in Moore Haven, Florida, amid ongoing human rights abuses.
- February 10: We partnered with the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center at the University of Miami School of Law to launch the Florida Detention Database, a new statewide tool tracking complaints lodged against Florida immigration detention centers for inadequate conditions, constitutional violations, and human rights abuses.
- March 8: Through advocacy, we helped defeat a special election held by the Sarasota County Commission to repeal the 2018 vote by Sarasota residents that required Sarasota County to elect its Commission through single-member districts instead of at-large elections.
- March 8 and 16: Following months of advocacy in partnership with the local NAACP, a federal judge gave final approval to new Jackson County Commission and School Board redistricting maps. This was the first time Jackson County had redistricted in 35 years, securing fair representation and protecting local Black residents’ rights under the Voting Rights Act.
- March 25: Amid ongoing abuses and mounting community pressure for closure, ICE transferred all remaining individuals in its custody out of the Glades County Detention Center and announced it would indefinitely pause its use of Glades as an immigration detention center.
- April 15: In partnership with the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), we filed a federal lawsuit against ICE and the National Archives for the unlawful deletion of video surveillance footage at Glades County Detention Center.
- May 3: Along with Harvard Election Law Clinic and the Southern Poverty Law Center, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Jacksonville NAACP Branch, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, the Northeast Chapter of the ACLU of Florida, Florida Rising, and 10 individual city residents challenging the Jacksonville City Council’s newly drawn redistricting maps. Jacksonville’s drawn maps were unconstitutional and silenced Black voters’ voices.
- May 26: A federal judge gave final approval to a new Starke City Commission district map and allowed the city to move its elections to the regular even-year cycle, when turnout is higher. Representing the NAACP and Black Starke residents, we worked with the city to develop a new map that complied with the Voting Rights Act.
- June 1: On behalf of Florida healthcare providers, we filed a lawsuit to challenge House Bill 5 (HB 5), a law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and threatens to put doctors who provide this essential care in jail. The case argued that the ban is blatantly unconstitutional under the state’s constitution. A court decided in June that the law was unconstitutional. The case is still awaiting a trial date.
- June 6: Alongside Southern Legal Counsel, we unveiled a new website to help Floridians whose licenses were improperly suspended find out if their suspensions were lifted. The creation of this website was made possible after a court decided that the suspension of licenses for failure to pay court fees and fines related to local ordinance violations was unlawful. This advocacy has aided many Floridians in need, including people experiencing homelessness.
- June 15: Representing the Fair Elections for Democracy Campaign, we secured a permanent injunction blocking 2021’s SB 1890 and 2022’s HB 921, a pair of laws that would have all but ended the citizen initiative process by limiting donations and volunteer contributions to initiative efforts.
- June 24: In partnership with Legal Services of Greater Miami, and Southern Legal Counsel, we filed a lawsuit in June to challenge the City of Miami’s practice of destroying personal property belonging to people experiencing homelessness.
- July 11: Our legal team, the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association, and the Miami-Dade Public Defender launched the Collateral Consequences Project. This project produced easy-to-understand informational cards to help people arrested in Florida understand the full weight of a plea or conviction, especially in the face of widespread coercive plea bargaining practices.
- July 22: In collaboration with the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and the ACLU Voting Rights Project, we developed a resource for lawyers and advocacy groups to help Floridians with past felony convictions determine their eligibility to register and vote.
- August 15: We filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Tallahassee Bail Fund to challenge the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller for Leon County’s use of Florida Statute
§ 903.286, which is currently being used to confiscate money donated by bail funds and deprives the resources needed to continue assisting low-income Floridians.
- August 18: On behalf of a group of students and educators, we filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s House Bill 7 (HB 7) — a law that bans Florida educators and students from learning and talking about issues related to race and gender in higher education classrooms.
- September 7: Along with immigration law clinics from Florida State University, the University of Florida and the University of Miami, we launched the Baker Legal Assistance Program. This unprecedented statewide partnership seeks to provide legal assistance to individuals in ICE custody at the Baker County Detention Center in Macclenny, Florida.
- September 13: Alongside 12 national and local organizations, we filed a federal complaint against ICE and the Baker County Sheriff’s Office for multiple cases of abuse and inhumane conditions at the Baker County Detention Center. The federal complaint states that immigrants at Baker have experienced a range of abuses, including excessive use of force, extreme medical neglect, racialized harassment, retaliation, impediments to accessing legal counsel, and lack of adequate hygiene and food.
- September 26: We sued the Baker County Sheriff’s Office after officials illegally denied in-person attorney visits to people detained at the Baker County Detention Center. The lawsuit claimed that the Baker County Sheriff's Office, which is under contract with ICE, violated ICE standards and the United States Constitution by denying attorneys access to meet with existing and potential clients without justification.
- October 1-31: We hosted several Get Out the Vote (GOTV) and Voter Education events across the state to engage eligible voters in the 2022 midterm elections. These efforts resulted in:
- Over 1 million people called across the state
- Over 1,430 doors knocked
- Over 55,000 people texted
- 8 Know Your Rights Know Your Ballot Trainings in English and Spanish
- 11 ACLU of Florida-hosted GOTV events statewide
- October 12: As a result of our lawsuit on behalf of the Jacksonville NAACP Branch, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, the Northeast Chapter of the ACLU of Florida, Florida Rising, and 10 individual Jacksonville residents, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida blocked Jacksonville City Council and School Board maps that packed together Black residents, split Black communities, and deny them a fair voice in government.
- October 13: In partnership with ACLU National Prison Project, ACLU affiliates in Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, and the District of Columbia, the American Immigration Council, and Milbank, LLP, the ACLU of Florida filed a case against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE for access to counsel impediments occurring across the country in ICE detention centers. The ACLU of FL is involved in advocating against access to counsel violations at the Krome North Processing Center in Miami.
- October 29: We argued that the Broward Sheriff continued to violate the provisions of a consent decree and enforcement order to take measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to persons detained in the Broward Jail. The court issued a show-cause order after the hearing.
- November 2: After years of advocacy, the Tampa City Council moved forward with plans to allow Tampa voters to have a chance to vote on whether or not the Citizen Review Board (CRB) will have an independent attorney. This opportunity can grant Tampa residents with the tools to pursue accountability in police abuse cases and is an important step towards transparency in local government.
- November 17: A judge blocked HB 7 from going into effect by granting a preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs. The order found that the law “violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”
- December 13: In response to months of advocacy with a coalition of community groups, the Panama City Commission unanimously approved a new redistricting map for the four city wards, updating the boundaries following the 2020 Census. The vote ensures voters in Panama City will have fair representation in the April 2023 elections.
- December 20: As a result of our legal challenge with partners, a federal court ordered fairer maps for the Jacksonville City Council and Duval County School Board. This decision ensures that a map drawn by Jacksonville voting rights organizations and residents will be used for the next elections in March and May of 2023. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied efforts by the City Council to prevent these victories from taking effect.