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Government & Politics

Maryland ACLU Gets New Leader

The ACLU of Maryland is getting a new director following the retirement of longtime civil rights lawyer Susan Goering.


Dana Vickers Shelley, a management and communications consultant who has worked for a variety of Maryland institutions, will take over the ACLU’s state office on June 11.


Shelley is not a lawyer; rather, she has a master of public administration degree from American University. But she has worked for legal organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she served as director of public affairs.


Shelley has been a consultant for the past eight years while simultaneously serving on the faculty at Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism and Communication. She has also been a senior fellow and director of strategic communications at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore.


Coleman Bazelon, president of the Maryland ACLU’s board of directors, said Shelley is coming on board “at a time of both rampant rights violations and great opportunity to create deep and lasting change.”


“Dana’s strong experience in civil rights leadership, combined with her political savvy, will fuel the ACLU’s growth as an organization that makes a real impact for freedom and justice in Maryland,” he said.



Dana Vickers Shelley, incoming executive director of the Maryland ACLU


The ACLU Maryland affiliate is the 10th oldest in the country, dating back to 1931. Based in Baltimore, with a satellite office in Takoma Park, it has 20 staff members and a budget of more than $3 million – and offers $1.4 million a year in pro bono legal services.


Goering, who is retiring, led the Maryland affiliate for 33 years, first as legal director and then as executive director. She came to the Maryland chapter after working for the ACLU in Missouri.


In Maryland, the ACLU under Goering brought the lawsuit that led to the most recent change in the state education funding formula, through the work of the Thornton Commission, which culminated in legislation in 2002. She also worked on prison reform and other causes related to institutional racism.


Since the 2016 election, the ACLU of Maryland has focused more on community engagement and worked to mobilize Marylanders to defend and advance rights. At the same time, the affiliate has been implementing a race-equity lens, which leaders believe will strengthen the organization internally and externally and maximize its advocacy work.


“When legislation and policies are still being enacted that thwart the success and livelihoods of children, families and communities of color, LGBTQ persons, and immigrants, the ACLU of Maryland is needed more than ever,” Shelley said. “I am honored and excited to build on the landmark achievements and contributions of the staff, board members, funders, members, community partners, and so many others across the state to advance liberty, justice, and equality for all Marylanders.”


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