The ACLU generally files cases that affect the civil liberties of large numbers of people, rather than those involving a dispute between two parties.The basic questions we ask when reviewing a potential case are:
1. Does this case raise significant civil liberties or civil rights issues?
Civil liberties include freedom of speech, press, religion, and association; due process; equal protection; and privacy. Civil rights include, for example, voting rights; discrimination based on disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or national origin, and police reform. Because of the nature of civil liberties claims, only rarely does the ACLU of Nevada take a case that does not involve the government.
2. What effect will this case have on people other than the parties involved?
Lawsuits can affect a large number of people in two ways. First, we sometimes challenge a policy or practice which directly impacts upon many people. Second, a lawsuit brought on behalf of one person can have a larger impact on others in the long run when it establishes or expands legal protections.
3. Are the facts of the case in substantial dispute?
Generally, the ACLU takes cases that do not involve complicated disputes of fact, but prefer to take cases that involve questions of law only. Facts are considered to be in dispute whenever you have one version of what happened and the other party(s) has a different view. An example of a factual dispute is an employment discrimination case where the employer claims he fired the employee because of poor job performance and has credible evidence to support that claim.
The reasons we often decide not to accept cases involving factual disputes are: 1) Our limited resources (it is often expensive to prove a case which involves substantial factual disputes); 2) A court might never reach the civil liberties legal issue if it resolves the facts against the client; 3) The case is less likely to have a broad impact on others if the decision rests upon the specific facts of a case.
4. What is the potential impact of the case?
Will the case set a civil liberties precedent? Will the case strengthen an existing but ignored precedent? What are the prospects of success and the risks of losing? How likely is the issue to recur? What educational opportunities does the case present?
Types of cases the ACLU generally cannot accept include:
- An individual was fired without a good reason or just cause.
- An individual is being denied benefits such as worker's compensation or unemployment benefits.
- Landlord / tenant disputes.
- Criminal cases or complaints about a person's attorney in a criminal case. Only in limited cases, for example when a person is being prosecuted for engaging in activity protected by the Constitution (such as participating in a political demonstration), do we consider accepting criminal cases.
- Private civil disputes including contractual matters.
- Domestic matters (divorce, child custody, wills, etc).
For a list of organizations that may provide assistance in these matters, please visit aclunv.org/referral. Be advised that the ACLU of Nevada does not necessarily endorse any organization on this list nor do we guarantee that they will be able to provide assistance.
Please consider the above information before filing a complaint
Because of the volume of requests we receive, we cannot return any materials submitted to our office.
Even if your complaint falls within the above guidelines, filing a complaint does not guarantee that the ACLU of Nevada will provide legal assistance. We receive many requests for assistance each month, and there are simply many cases and problems of unfairness and injustice which the ACLU is unable to handle.
Unless and until the ACLU agrees to take your case, you are solely responsible for any and all statute of limitations or other deadlines which might apply to your specific situation.