Jake Coolidge

Although I have always been passionate about civil liberties, I was not actively engaged with the ACLU until I was in graduate school. The first issue that really drew me to the ACLU was their opposition to the death penalty and general stance on criminal justice reform. While working as an adjunct professor, I was eager to utilize my skills for social change and began volunteering with the ACLU of Montana to research conditions of county jails across the state. During law school, my work with the ACLU of Montana evolved into two consecutive summer internships and two years as the Law School Representative on the Board of Directors. Now a licensed attorney, I'm fortunate to be working on policy-level criminal justice issues and follow the ACLU of Montana's work closely.

My experiences with the ACLU over the past five years have been transformative. As an intern, I have two memories that stand out to me. The first  is when the ACLU of Montana published "Locked in the Past: Montana Jails in Crisis." After working on the report for two years with ACLU staff, it was amazing to see the report distributed statewide and the subsequently invigorated discussion about jail conditions. The other truly gratifying moment as an intern was working on a brief for Smith v. Batista, a case that would ultimately halt capital punishment in Montana. Although my role was minimal, it was inspiring to see the ACLU of Montana successfully stop the inhumane and legally flawed lethal injection practices in the state.

The beginning of the Trump administration has given me an elevated level of adoration for the ACLU, both in Montana and nationally. Perhaps the most inspiring moment during my time as an intern, board member, volunteer, and card-carrying member came recently: in light of President Trump's immigration orders, the ACLU once again proved their steadfast dedication to all of our constitutional rights by challenging the travel ban in court. In doing so, the ACLU reminded an entire nation that they will fight for all of us to preserve our constitutional guarantees, regardless of who threatens them. 

Overall, my experiences with the ACLU have shaped my life as a professional, an individual, and, most importantly, as an American. I will always carry my card proudly and continue to advocate and fight for fairness, equality, and civil liberties. I could not be more thankful for starting my relationship with the ACLU years ago and will always hold the organization in the highest esteem.

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