Oh, Mike Pence! Sometimes you do confound me! Apparently, you’ve accidentally done something good!
Under the administration of Gov. Mike Pence, legal fees paid to the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana have soared beyond $1.4 million and may approach $2 million, according to an Indiana Lawyer analysis. The $1.4 million total does not include fees that have been or will be paid in the current fiscal year ending June 30 or other legal fees ACLU claims are owed by the state. The fees represent the state’s payment of legal bills to parties who prevail in federal court on claims that government action violated their constitutionally protected civil rights.
Regular readers of this blog will remember that I spent six years (1992-98) as the Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU. Those were rewarding years in so many ways–I learned so much and met so many wonderful people; it was so gratifying to be part of an organization that defended individual liberties…..
But I must admit that the most vivid memory I took with me when I left the ACLU for academic life was the constant pressure of fundraising. We had wonderful lawyers and dedicated clerical staff, and we all worked for a pittance–but I had to raise that pittance. The ACLU only has two sources of income: charitable gifts (fundraising) and legal fees.
And legal fees aren’t a given. The organization only gets legal fees when it wins a lawsuit and the law allows such recovery. Even when the organization is successful and the case is a fee-generating one, it can take years of litigation–first, the case itself, then a fight over fees…
So I really, honestly do want to thank Governor Pence for his largesse to Indiana’s ACLU. I mean, $2 million dollars is a windfall! It should allow the ACLU some much-needed “breathing room,” some assurance that it will “be there”–in a position to protect LGBT Hoosiers from discrimination, reproductive rights from theocratic lawmakers, public school students from government-imposed prayer, law-abiding citizens against official overreach…Well, you all get the idea.
Here’s another idea: Each time Indiana’s constitutionally clueless Governor and AG lose another case to the ACLU, let’s all send the ACLU a few extra dollars to celebrate. Because after November, I have a feeling this bonanza may dry up….and Jane Henegar, the wonderful current Executive Director, will have to resume her begging.
Send a few bucks to Indiana’s ACLU in “honor” of Governor Pence.