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  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at https://action.aclu.org/give/support-aclu-colorado

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

Civil Liberties Groups Ask Colorado Supreme Court to Strike Down Unconstitutional School Voucher Program

Douglas County “Scholarships” Divert Public Funds to Religious Schools

December 10, 2014

DENVER – Attorneys representing civil liberties and taxpayer organizations, including the ACLU of Colorado, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Taxpayers for Public Education, argued before the Colorado State Supreme Court today that a Douglas County voucher program that provides public education funds to private religious schools is unconstitutional and should be struck down by the Court.

Matt Douglas of Arnold & Porter LLP, arguing for the plaintiffs, highlighted the Colorado Constitution’s “specific prohibition” on government funds going to schools that are controlled by churches or religious organizations, and Michael McCarthy of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, representing Taxpayers for Public Education, argued that the Colorado Public School Finance Act forbids using public funds to subsidize tuition payments for students who are attending private schools.

Douglas County’s so-called “Choice Scholarship Pilot Program” offered tuition vouchers worth $4,575 to 500 students to spend at religious and other private schools. For the purposes of obtaining state per-pupil educational funds, Douglas County created a public charter school, which exists only on paper, and enrolled students in the non-existent charter school. In reality, students were set to attend one of 23 district-approved “Private School Partners,” and the voucher money would be paid to those private schools. As of the filing of the lawsuit, 18 of the 23 approved Private School Partners were religious schools.

“Parents are free to send their children to a private religious school if they wish, but Colorado taxpayers should not be forced to pay for it,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.

The groups filed a lawsuit challenging the voucher program in 2011. A lower court agreed with their position and struck down the program, but the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of Douglas County in February 2013. In March 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case.

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court earlier this year, the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote that the program, if allowed to stand, would “eviscerate core provisions of the religion and education clauses of the Colorado Constitution, restrict citizens’ ability to enforce the Public School Finance Act, and give school districts around the state carte blanche to implement similar programs, with potentially devastating consequences for the State’s constitutionally mandated public-school system.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Matt Douglas, Timothy R. Macdonald, and Michelle K. Albert of Arnold & Porter LLP; Ayesha N. Khan and Alex J. Luchenitser of Americans United; Heather Weaver and Daniel Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; and Mark Silverstein and Sara Rich of the ACLU of Colorado.

Resources:

Visit the ACLU case page with corresponding legal documents: https://aclu-co.org/court-cases/la-rue-v-colorado-board-of-education/

View: Civil Liberties Groups Ask Colorado Supreme Court to Strike Down Douglas County Voucher Program.



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