The ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC) seeks a Legal Director.  

The ACLUF-SDIC is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) civil liberties and civil rights organization working to advance equality, freedom and justice through public education and litigation.  Together with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, the 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that does our legislative lobbying work, we are a prominent force for the protection and expansion of fundamental rights in California’s second-most populous county (San Diego) and the county with the highest per capita Latina/o population (Imperial).

While there are more than 50 ACLU affiliates nationwide, our work covers the length of California’s border with Mexico. We work collaboratively with the National ACLU and with ACLU affiliates in California, on the U.S-Mexico border and throughout the United States. In addition, we value partnerships and collaboration with community organizations and groups across the state and throughout the binational border region.

The ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties and ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (known collectively as ACLU-SDIC) have a proven track record of success combining impact litigation, policy advocacy, legislation, research and analysis, public education, strategic communications and community organizing to achieve meaningful social change. We are dedicated to confronting issues that threaten our most cherished civil rights and freedoms and defending the progress the ACLU has made over its 100-year history.

Position Summary:

The Legal Director will provide vision, direction, and support for the ACLUF-SDIC’s litigation program. Reporting to the Chief Program and Strategy Officer, the Legal Director will lead and expand the ACLU-SDIC’s litigation program, including developing and litigating high-impact cases and managing the department. The Legal Director will be responsible for executing the overall legal strategy as part of a robust integrated advocacy approach to advance the ACLU-SDIC’s mission, and oversee the management and coordination of our docket, litigation staff, and network of cooperating attorneys. Our integrated advocacy approach centers issues teams supporting our organization’s priorities. Our current teams are Advancing Justice, Advancing Equity, Advancing Immigrants’ Rights, and Defending Civil Liberties.

As a critical member of the organization’s Senior Leadership Team consisting of the executive team and department directors, the Legal Director will provide strategic leadership aligning with our organization priorities on both litigation and non-litigation legal advocacy strategies in our priority areas of criminal justice, immigrants’ rights, racial and economic justice, as well as other civil rights and liberties issues. In addition, the Legal Director will work in close coordination with our policy, organizing, Imperial Valley regional office and communications teams, with national and California ACLU staff, and other local and national partners engaging in an integrated advocacy model to advance our organizational goals. Working with the senior leadership team, the Legal Director will also help guide the affiliate toward becoming a more seamless internally integrated advocacy organization that effectively advances a transformational social change advocacy agenda.

Primary Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Manage all aspects of the ACLU-SDIC’s litigation program, including working in concert with the Chief Program and Strategy Officer and issue teams in determining when litigation is appropriate  to support desired legislative and policy outcomes and for addressing community concerns; working with litigation staff to develop and pursue litigation strategies; overseeing the legal intake process; implementing efficient systems and processes; overseeing the investigation and development of cases before commencing litigation; and building litigation teams with ACLU-SDIC lawyers, cooperating counsel, and nonprofit partners; prepare regular updates, including written as well as oral presentations, about our litigation for the public and across the organization including for the staff, Board, donors, and national office as necessary or assigned.
  • Apply an integrated advocacy approach by collaborating and leveraging internal functions with the Communications, Policy, Organizing, and Development departments, as well as the affiliate’s Imperial Valley regional office, to advance the ACLU-SDIC’s strategic priorities, coordinating policy and legal advocacy tactics, ensuring strategic media exposure, and developing financial resources to grow.
  • Serve as a resource on legal matters pertaining to civil rights and civil liberties for staff, partners, and other ACLU-SDIC constituents.
  • Be a thought-partner and active, contributing member of the Senior Leadership Team. 
  • Maintain an individual caseload of developing and active litigation, including overseeing and directing pre-litigation investigations, discovery, motion practice, brief writing, hearings and trials, appellate work, and amicus briefs.
  • Supervise litigation by staff attorneys and cooperating attorneys as they engage in complex litigation in Federal and State court, including overseeing all aspects of discovery, motion practice, briefs, trials, appellate work, and amicus briefing.
  • Cultivate and deepen relationships with volunteer attorneys and the legal community in San Diego and Imperial Counties (and beyond) to increase legal capacity in the region to address civil rights and civil liberties issues and improve access to the court system, to enhance organizational visibility, and to help build our legal docket.
  • Be an active contributor and leader in the nationwide ACLU legal community, including among affiliate Legal Directors and in collaborative efforts (where applicable) with ACLU National departments.
  • Provide direct supervision and support for litigation staff, including conducting staff evaluations, supporting the development and implementation of work plans, ensuring continued professional development, overseeing the recruitment and hiring for all litigation and litigation support positions; ensure onboarding prepares staff on systems and tools such as discovery, time tracking and other programs; and serve as a mentor and coach for our growing and diverse group of staff attorneys and legal support staff.
  • Oversee recruiting, hiring, and onboarding of new staff members in litigation department, legal fellows, and legal interns.
  • Engage in public speaking, articulating the ACLU’s views to the media and the public on a broad range of issues.
  • Develop and manage the Litigation Department budget, including the proper allocation and expenditure of resources.

Our Must Haves:

  • Demonstrated commitment to civil rights and civil liberties and client-centered advocacy consistent with the mission and goals of ACLU-SDIC.
  • Minimum of 10 years’ legal experience, including substantial state and/or federal litigation at trial court and appellate levels, including class actions, with a strong background in constitutional law and civil rights.
  • Management experience that includes recruiting, training, managing, and retaining a diverse, high-performing litigation team.
  • Admission to the California bar (or licensed in another state and qualified to apply for admission in California within 6 months).

Desired Skills and Experience:

  • Demonstrated record of moving legal cases forward from investigation and development to completion (e.g., settlement, trial, and compliance).
  • Excellent communication, media, presentation, written, and analytical skills.
  • Experience working with volunteers and non-profit organizations, including allies from across the political spectrum.
  • Experience representing and working with activists and grassroots and other non-governmental organizations.
  • Excellent organizational skills and a creative and strategic approach to problem-solving and litigation including a demonstrated ability to exercise sound professional judgement.
  • Goal-oriented and project-oriented, with an ability to recognize and maximize opportunities on behalf of the organization.
  • Values and has experience working collaboratively and respectfully with teams and coworkers, including toward resolving obstacles and/or conflicts.
  • Excellent at collaborating across disciplines and being open to innovation and cross-departmental planning to achieve organizational priorities.

Cultural Competencies: Demonstrated awareness of one’s own cultural identity, views about differences, and the ability to learn and build on varying cultural and community norms. A complex understanding of racial justice and the urgency of confronting institutional racism and inequity. Commitment to equity and inclusion as organizational practice and culture. Proven track record of working across lines of race, immigration status, ethnicity, language, class, gender and other identities and experiences including record of arrest or conviction.  Courage and impeccable integrity.

Physical Requirements:

While performing the responsibilities of the job, the employee is required to exchange accurate information, detect/identify documents and the information contained in them, move between areas in and out of the office to complete their role. The employee may need to move various equipment including computer to their work location.

Travel Requirements: Must be able to travel for court hearings and conferences as needed. 


Salary range: $110,000 - $160,000

Excellent benefits include four weeks paid vacation; 18 office holidays; medical and dental insurance for staff members and their families; life and long-term disability insurance; and 401(k) plan with employer match.

What Now?

Please submit a cover letter explaining your interest in and qualifications for the position as detailed in this announcement, a current resume, writing sample, and names and contact information of three professional references (including at least one supervisor).

Electronic applications are preferred. To submit your application, please click here.

However, hard-copy applications can be mailed to:

Deputy Director

ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties

P.O. Box 87131

San Diego, CA 92137-7131



The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages applications from women, people of color, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, veterans, and people with arrest records and/or convictions.