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CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office,, (786) 363-2717

May 13, 2024

MIAMI, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida announces the appointment of Bacardi L. Jackson as its new executive director, succeeding interim executive director Howard Simon.

For over 25 years, Jackson has been a seasoned litigator and trial attorney, championing civil rights and social justice causes in Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. For the last four years, Jackson has served as Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Deputy Legal Director for the Democracy: Education & Youth Advocacy and Litigation Team. Her work focused on stunting the school-to-prison pipeline and ensuring equal access to inclusive, high-quality free public education and mental health services for children across southern states.

“My roots run through the Deep South. I grew up in the struggle for racial and economic justice,” said Bacardi Jackson. “In the wake of the bombing of the four little girls in Birmingham, my father moved to Alabama to take on the battle for a true and inclusive democracy. He is often called the ‘Father of Black Voting Rights’ and helped initiate the marches from Selma to Montgomery, which led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

“The freedoms that he and so many others fought for are the ones we must continue to defend today, particularly in our state,” Jackson added. “From censorship to extreme abortion bans, we know we must continue the work to protect our freedoms and rights. The torch is now in our hands. I’m proud to continue that good work here with the ACLU of Florida.”

Prior to her role with SPLC, Jackson spent over a decade in private practice where she maintained an active pro bono docket, which included representing the King Center for Non-violent Social Change, Women Against Abuse, and Habitat for Humanity among others. She earned a B.A. from Stanford University in 1993, and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1998.

Howard Simon, the organization’s current interim executive director, officially passes on the leadership of the organization to Bacardi Jackson on May 13.

“The appointment of Bacardi Jackson as our Executive Director is an exciting new chapter for the ACLU of Florida, especially at this critical time, said Eric Smaw, President of the organization’s Board of Directors. “She is intellectually astute, experienced, and she will bring an energizing force to the state affiliate as it faces numerous civil rights challenges. Bacardi was the unanimous choice of our Board of Directors. We are proud to have her leading the affiliate, and we look forward to working with her.”

“We are beyond grateful for the return of longtime former executive director Howard Simon as interim leader,” Smaw added. “Howard shepherded the organization through a challenging restructuring period and has helped set us up on a long-term path for success in continuing a nearly 60-year fight defending democracy in Florida. We salute him for his unwavering commitment to the fight for freedom in Florida.”

“This is an especially dangerous time for civil rights and civil liberties in Florida,” said Howard L. Simon who served as executive director from 1997 through 2018. “Never in the decades that I have lived in the Sunshine State has there been a governor and legislature so intent on rolling back every element of progress that has been made for women’s rights, First Amendment rights, voting rights, racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, freedom from government-sponsored religion, and so many other constitutional principles.”

“That is why I, and the members of our staff, are so thrilled that Bacardi Jackson has been appointed as our new Executive Director. She is exceptionally well-qualified to lead our talented staff during this critical time in the hard work they have been doing to protect the rights of the people of Florida from assault by their own government.”

“I know that she will do a wonderful job” Simon added. “We are all counting on her.”

The ACLU of Florida has been known for its work to defend core constitutional freedoms. The organization has filed a number of lawsuits challenging government censorship, interference with Floridians’ private lives, restrictive voter laws, including unconstitutional redistricting maps, and discriminatory laws against immigrants and LGBTQ+ people.

The organization’s lawsuits have been especially successful protecting the First Amendment and voting rights of the people of Florida by securing injunctions against several anti-civil liberties restrictions that were championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and enacted by the Florida Legislature, including:

  • Protecting the First Amendment’s guarantee of free of speech by securing an injunction against House Bill 1, the anti-protest law (anti-riot provision),
  • Protecting free speech in higher education by securing an injunction against House Bill 7, the Stop Woke Act as the law applied to higher education,
  • Fighting efforts to restrict voter registration programs by securing an injunction against Senate Bill 7050 by which the Legislature attempted to ban on non-citizens from participating the third-party voter registration activities, and
  • Protecting freedom of speech in the electoral process by securing an injunction preventing the enforcement of Senate Bill 1890 by which the legislature attempted to impose contribution limits for ballot initiatives,
  • Challenging gerrymandered maps by recently securing a ruling by a federal court that struck down the maps used to redistrict the Miami City Commission as racially discriminatory.

In her new role, Jackson will be responsible for leading the organization as it continues its litigation and advocacy work for Floridians’ civil rights and liberties.