American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey

Decarceration Attorney    

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) seeks applicants for a newly created full-time position of Staff Attorney (Decarceration). The Staff Attorney will focus on the ACLU-NJ’s strategic priority to end mass incarceration by engaging in litigation and legal advocacy to reduce incarceration for New Jerseyans who are serving criminal sentences. This position is funded for three years, with a possibility for future extension.   

As part of an organization that uses an integrated, inter-departmental approach to advocacy, the attorney will join a 10+ person legal team that engages in litigation and a wide range of advocacy tools to protect and expand civil rights and civil liberties, and that works collaboratively with policy and communications colleagues to maximize the ACLU-NJ’s impact.  The ACLU-NJ’s legal department has a robust civil rights litigation docket, including an active amicus practice in which we appear before the New Jersey Supreme Court in dozens of cases each year.  

This three-year position will be supervised by the Legal Director and will be based in Newark with a hybrid work schedule that currently offers the option of working remotely up to three days each week.  

Responsibilities 

The Staff Attorney for Decarceration will be responsible for evaluating and implementing strategies to reduce New Jersey’s prison population, including projects aimed at advocating for categorical clemency, reforming parole, ending mandatory minimums, and pursuing other sentencing reforms. In addition to litigation and legal advocacy, the Staff Attorney will also engage in policy and legislative analysis, public education efforts, and coalition work and will need strong project management skills. While the Staff Attorney’s focus will be on decarceration, they will also work on other civil rights and civil liberties issues of concern as needed. 

Litigation & Policy Advocacy 

  • Investigate, develop, and litigate impact cases in state and federal courts and administrative forums with a focus on cases that will reduce incarceration in New Jersey’s prisons and reduce the number of people subject to criminal supervision. 
  • All staff attorneys are responsible for identifying possible litigation and advocacy; conducting factual and legal research; evaluating legal theory and strategy; identifying, interviewing, and counseling clients and witnesses; writing demand letters; drafting pleadings, motions, and briefs; conducting discovery; working with experts; presenting oral arguments; negotiating settlements; handling appeals; and writing amicus briefs.
  • Engage in the advocacy work of the legal department and the broader integrated advocacy campaigns of the organization, including: 
  • Serving as a subject matter expert and advocate and providing technical and other support for policy work.
  • Drafting and editing public education and non-litigation advocacy materials, in collaboration with the ACLU-NJ’s policy and communications departments.
  • Providing technical and other support for legislative and policy work, including analyzing bills and occasionally drafting and delivering testimony.
  • Engaging with coalitions, community groups, and stakeholders working on similar issues.
  • Conducting outreach and advocacy with, and providing technical assistance to, public officials and government bodies.
  • Engaging in public speaking and representing ACLU-NJ positions to diverse audiences, including to the media, at conferences, and on panels. 
  • Provide oversight and support for litigation or advocacy being handled by volunteer attorneys or law students by reviewing legal documents and ensuring alignment on strategy and approach.
  • Evaluate how cases, investigations, and projects are inclusive and responsive to community needs and in alignment with organizational priorities. 

Leadership & Administration 

  • Establish and cultivate collaborative relationships with community partners, coalitions, stakeholders, ACLU-NJ staff and colleagues from other ACLU offices.
  • Implement and manage grant-funded projects.  
  • Assist in the development, mentoring, and supervision of more junior staff, fellows, and interns, including direct supervision of interns and staff. 
  • Contribute to a work culture that centers racial justice, inclusion, participation, and collaboration. 
  • Participate in the ACLU-NJ’s internal and external racial justice and equity work and in the development of the legal department’s vision, plans, and priorities. 
  • Assist with staff, internship, and fellowship recruitment and hiring and with recruiting volunteer attorneys. 
  • Provide administrative and organizational support as needed and adhere to internal systems for recordkeeping and information sharing.
  • Engage in special projects and other duties as assigned.

Qualifications 

The ACLU-NJ anticipates hiring an attorney with at least four years of litigation experience (including clerkships) but will consider all applicants with similar experience and strong advocacy and litigation skills. Attorneys with eight years of experience are eligible for the designation as “Senior Staff Attorney.”  

Required  

  • Excellent analytic, research, writing, and communications skills.
  • Ability to develop and litigate impact cases, including demonstrated ability to conduct thorough fact-finding and investigations. 
  • Experience with the criminal legal system, including parole, probation, or sentencing.
  • Ability to synthesize complex issues and communicate them effectively to diverse audiences, including elected officials, attorneys, judges, community partners, supporters, the media, and the public.
  • Excellent at working collaboratively on a variety of projects and building strong relationships with lawyers, other staff members, and with community organizers and coalitions.
  • A strong understanding of and demonstrated commitment to civil rights, civil liberties, equity, and racial justice. 
  • Proven project and time management skills, including a high level of organization, the ability to meet deadlines, and attention to detail. 
  • Ability to balance and prioritize multiple tasks and responsibilities. 
  • Ability and willingness to travel throughout the state of New Jersey, and occasionally to other states for conferences and training.
  • Ability to manage a demanding schedule and work occasional weekend and evening hours, as needed. 
  • Admitted to practice law in the state of New Jersey or willingness to promptly take the New Jersey bar exam, and a commitment to the highest ethical and professional standards.

Desired 

  • At least four years of experience litigating in complex civil cases and/or class actions in New Jersey state or federal courts.
  • Experience with discovery, depositions, hearings, oral arguments, and/or appellate litigation. 
  • Experience with data analysis as an advocacy or litigation tool. 
  • Familiarity with or experience working on social justice issues in New Jersey and/or with organizations working on those issues.
  • Experience with communications strategies for advocacy, such as drafting op-eds or serving as a spokesperson. 
  • A demonstrated commitment to and track record of doing intersectional advocacy, using multiple strategies to achieve a particular goal.  

Compensation 

The ACLU of New Jersey pays staff attorneys in a salary range based on year of law school graduation. Currently, the salary range for 3-6 years is $79,000 to 94,000 and for 7-15 years is $97,000-125,000. The ACLU-NJ supports and plans for staff member professional growth and skill development through internal and external opportunities. We offer a comprehensive compensation and benefits package which currently includes 16 days paid time off, 12 office holidays and 12 health care leave days; medical, vision, and dental insurance; 100 days paid family leave; life and long-term disability insurance; pre-tax transit benefits; and a 401(k) plan with employer match. This three-year position is full-time, salaried, and exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act.   

About our Culture 

We are a diverse workforce and take pride in our ability to attract and retain employees with a huge array of backgrounds and experiences. We work hard, but also like to celebrate our successes. 

We strive to bring humility, empathy, kindness, and generosity to our work, internally within the organization and externally with our partners and those whom we are serving. We seek to build a work culture with a sense of respect and collegiality, and a willingness to be generous with our expertise and resources. 

TO APPLY 

Please complete the application to upload a resume, letter of interest, and legal writing sample (no longer than 10 double-spaced pages). Your letter should explain ways in which you satisfy the skills and qualifications specified above. We also invite applicants to include in their letter information about how their background and/or experiences could contribute to the diversity, cultural vitality, and perspective of our staff and advocacy work. 

Application materials will also be accepted via postal mail (P.O. Box 32159, Newark, NJ 07102), but electronic filing is strongly preferred. Applications will be reviewed beginning immediately. We will accept applications until the position is filled, at which time the job announcement will be removed from our website. We hope that one of those applications is yours. 

The ACLU-NJ makes every effort to assure that its recruitment and employment provide all qualified persons, including persons with disabilities, with full opportunities for employment in all positions. 

The ACLU-NJ is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. If you are a qualified individual with a disability and need assistance applying online, please email careers@aclu-nj.org. If you are selected for an interview, you will receive additional information regarding how to request an accommodation for the interview process. 

The ACLU-NJ is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization, dedicated to defending and enhancing civil rights and civil liberties through litigation, legislative advocacy, organizing, and community education.  

The ACLU-NJ is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture of belonging. It is our policy to employ qualified people without regard to race; color; religion; sex; national origin; age; ancestry; disability; sexual orientation; veteran’s status; marital status; civil union status; arrest or court record; citizenship; credit history; genetic information; gender identity or expression; status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking; or any other characteristic protected under federal or state law. The more inclusive we are, the better we are. 

 

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