NEW ORLEANS — The executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana is retiring after a decade.
Marjorie Esman took the job in September 2007, and says she’ll retire at the end of October.
Before becoming executive director, Esman was a volunteer attorney for the group, served on its board and was its representative to the ACLU national board for 10 years.
“In the past ten years we’ve accomplished a great deal, in legislative, litigation, and public education efforts that span the range of criminal justice reform, LGBT equality, rights of the incarcerated, and expanding First Amendment protections for the people of Louisiana,” Esman said in a statement Wednesday. “After ten years at the helm, it’s time to turn the work over to new leadership that can steer this organization to even greater heights.”
Recent lawsuits include one accusing a Baton Rouge pretrial supervision company of racketeering and one alleging that a police officer in Lake Charles illegally took a woman’s phone and deleted a photo of her son in the back of a police car. The group also is representing a man who says he was denied Social Security survivor benefits after his husband died; that lawsuit was filed last year.
In July, a federal appeals court ruled that Louisiana’s Department of Corrections cannot require a Rastafarian inmate to cut off his dreadlocks, and an Orleans Parish judge ordered the district attorney to turn over the names of lawyers who used what the ACLU calls “false subpoenas” — though the district attorney said he would appeal that order.
In June, the ACLU won a ruling that panhandling is protected free speech, so the New Orleans suburb of Slidell cannot require a city license to ask strangers for money.
The ACLU and New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice sued Baton Rouge police last year, accusing them of using excessive force in arresting hundreds of people during protests after police killed a black man named Alton Sterling. That suit was resolved in November with a settlement affirming that people have a right to protest peacefully.
The ACLU also got the Lafourche Parish School Board in 2009 to clear the record of a student disciplined for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. The same year, the city of Amite agreed to pay damages to a black author who was ticketed for violating the city’s obscenity law with a car sign advertising his book, which had a racial slur in its title.