• ACLU
  • Washington D.C., DC, United States
  • Jan 11, 2018
Full time Legal

Job Description

JANUARY 5, 2018

Career Opportunity



National Prison Project, Washington, DC

For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Whether it’s ending mass incarceration, achieving full equality for the LGBT community, advancing racial justice, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age, or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties and civil rights cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach. With more than one million members, activists, and supporters, the ACLU is a nationwide organization that fights tirelessly in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., for the principle that every individual’s rights must be protected equally under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, national origin, record of arrest or conviction.

The National Prison Project of the ACLU’s National office in Washington, D.C. seeks applications for a full-time Staff Attorney


Founded in 1972 by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Prison Project (NPP) seeks to ensure constitutional conditions of confinement in prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, and immigration detention facilities. The Project has successfully litigated on behalf of prisoners in more than 25 states.  Since 1991 it has represented prisoners in five cases before the United States Supreme Court.  The Project is the only organization litigating conditions of confinement cases nationwide on behalf of men, women, and children. 

NPP policy priorities include reducing prison overcrowding, improving prisoner health care, eliminating violence and maltreatment, and increasing oversight and accountability in prisons, jails, and other places of detention. The Project leads the nationwide Stop Solitary campaign, which works to end the excessive and inappropriate use of solitary confinement.   The Project also coordinates a nationwide network of litigators, conducts training and public education conferences, and provides expert advice and technical assistance to activists and lawyers throughout the country. 

NPP also works to challenge the policies of over-incarceration that have led the United States to imprison more people than any other country in the world. This is an opportune moment to reform those policies.  There is a growing consensus among criminal justice experts, policymakers, and the public that America’s criminal justice system has relied too heavily on incarceration as the first and often only response to behavior that could be more effectively addressed through other means.  The population in American prisons and jails has tripled in the past 15 years and now approaches two and a half million.  Facilities are overcrowded; medical systems are overwhelmed; and work, education, and treatment programs are inadequate.  This failed experiment does not make us safer, it is not affordable, and it exacerbates the racial disparities that have long plagued the criminal justice system and the country.

The Staff Attorney will report to the Director of the National Prison Project and should be prepared to contribute to all aspects of the Project’s litigation and non-litigation work. 


  • Litigating in federal courts, including appellate courts, throughout the country.
  • Handling a substantial caseload of major class actions in federal court, working closely with other staff attorneys and local counsel.
  • Conducting legal research and writing legal memoranda.
  • Analyzing legislation for potential litigation.
  • Drafting pleadings and briefs, engaging in discovery and motion practice, and conducting evidentiary hearings and oral arguments.
  • Providing technical assistance and expert legal advice to local ACLU affiliates, cooperating attorneys and others who seek assistance from the Project.
  • Conducting policy advocacy on prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues.
  • Developing new cases and non-litigation advocacy projects.
  • Engaging in public speaking and articulating ACLU views to a variety of audiences on a broad range of prisoners’ rights, criminal justice and civil liberties issues.
  • Supervising paralegals.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to diversity within the office using a personal approach that values all individuals and respects differences in regards to race, ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, ability and socio-economic circumstance, record of arrest or conviction.
  • Commitment to work collaboratively and respectfully toward resolving obstacles and/or conflicts.


  • Individuals with more experience are strongly encouraged to apply.  Responsibilities will be commensurate with experience and demonstrated skill level. 
  • J.D. degree and a minimum of three years of litigation experience, preferably in federal court, are required. 
  • Active bar membership. 
  • A demonstrated commitment to civil liberties and public interest law.
  • A demonstrated ability to work independently as well as within a team.  Ability to foster and contribute to a collaborative team environment is essential.
  • Excellent legal research skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to perform complex legal analytical work.
  • Excellent communication skills both written and verbal.
  • Self-motivated, diligent and able to meet strict deadlines while under pressure.
  • Familiarity with criminal justice issues preferred.
  • Ability to travel required.


The ACLU offers a generous and comprehensive compensation and benefits package, commensurate with experience and within parameters of the ACLU compensation scale.


Please send a cover letter, current resume, the names and contact information of three references, and at least one legal writing sample by email to  Reference [NPP-11/ACLU-W] in subject line. 

Please note that this is not the general ACLU applicant email address. This email address is specific to National Prison Project postings. In order to ensure your application is received please make certain it is sent to the correct e-mail address.  You can expect to receive an automatic response that acknowledges the submission of application materials.

Please indicate in your cover letter where you learned of this career opportunity.

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. 

This job description provides a general but not comprehensive list of the essential responsibilities and qualifications required.  It does not represent a contract of employment. The ACLU reserves the right to change the description and/or posting at any time without advance notice.

ACLU is an equal opportunity employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. The ACLU encourages applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status, record of arrest or conviction.

The ACLU undertakes affirmative action strategies in its recruitment and employment efforts to assure that persons with disabilities have full opportunities for employment in all positions.

We encourage applicants with disabilities who may need accommodations in the application process to Correspondence sent to this email address that is not related to requests for accommodations will not be reviewed. Applicants should follow the instructions above regarding how to apply.

The ACLU comprises two separate corporate entities, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation are national organizations with the same overall mission, and share office space and employees. The ACLU has two separate corporate entities in order to do a broad range of work to protect civil liberties. This job posting refers collectively to the two organizations under the name “ACLU.”