The ACLU of WV is a nonprofit public interest organization devoted to protecting and promoting civil liberties principles. The ACLU is neither a government agency nor a general legal services organization, and we normally do not provide emergency services. The Charleston office serves the entire state of West Virginia. We have limited resources and staff and are unable to pursue every case. Requests for legal assistance must be made in writing. In person interviews are not possible, and we do not accept walk-ins. We do not accept complaints via email or phone. We generally cannot accept complaints from a third party.
Unfortunately we cannot offer general legal advice, answer legal question, provide legal research assistance, or provide assistance in criminal defense matters or post-conviction appeals, civil disputes, family law, tax problems, property rights, consumer complaints, appeals of building code violations, or complaints against lawyers or judges.
For additional assistance, please view our list of potential resources.
If you feel that your civil rights have been violated and would like to file a complaint, please read the following guidelines:
HOW DO WE SELECT CASES?
The ACLU usually 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) Is this a significant civil liberties issue?
2) What effect will this case have on people other than the parties involved?
3) Do we have the necessary resources to take this case?
WHAT ARE CIVIL LIBERTIES?
The civil liberties we seek to protect include:
Freedom of Speech and Press For example: a student is suspended for writing a newspaper article critical of the principal; a police officer is disciplined for speaking out against police brutality; a group is charged for police protection when it applies for a demonstration permit.
Freedom of Religion
This involves both the right of individuals to religious beliefs and the separation of church and state.
For example, illegal search and seizures (warrantless searches).
For example: a sheriff's department which refuses to accept women deputies; a refusal to allow homeless people to vote because they have no fixed addresses.
For example, a community group is denied a permit by the police and the town provides no appeal of the police decision.
WHAT CASES AFFECT OTHERS?
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. For example, a lawsuit challenging drug testing of one employee, if successful, could set a precedent for thousands of workers in the future.
WHY DO WE PREFER CASES WITHOUT FACTUAL DISPUTES?
We tend to take cases which do not involve complicated disputes of fact, but prefer to take cases where the issue is a question of law. 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.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
ACLU cooperating attorneys represent the clients free of charge. ACLU cases are handled by volunteer attorneys who are in private practice and volunteer their time for ACLU cases.
TYPES OF CASES THE ACLU GENERALLY CANNOT ACCEPT:
Types of cases the ACLU does not generally 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.
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.
Child custody/support or divorce cases.
Private civil disputes including contractual matters.
WHY DOES THE ACLU TURN DOWN CASES THAT FALL WITHIN THE GUIDELINES FOR ACCEPTANCE?
There are many cases and problems of unfairness and injustice which the ACLU is simply unable to handle. We receive many requests for assistance each month. Therefore, we cannot accept all of the complaints that fall within the guidelines discussed above. We must select those which we believe will have the greatest impact on protecting civil liberties.
CAN THE ACLU ADVISE ME ABOUT MY CASE?
The ACLU is unable to give you advice about your case or provide other types of assistance, (for example, reviewing your papers or conducting legal research to assist you), if we do not accept your case. This policy allows us to direct the necessary resources to those cases that we do accept.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT DEADLINES:
All legal claims have time deadlines. The deadlines may be different depending on who violated your rights and depending on what rights were violated. For some kinds of violations, you may need to file a claim with a government agency before you can sue, and these agencies usually have their own time deadlines. The ACLU cannot give you advice about the deadlines that apply to your case. To protect your rights, please consult with an attorney promptly to find out what deadlines apply in your case.
If you believe your case may be the kind of case we accept, fill out our online intake form or you can download the form (pdf) and mail the form to:
ACLU of WV Foundation
ATTN: Legal Intake
P O Box 3952 Charleston WV 25339-3952
You may also write a brief letter explaining your situation. Please be brief, but give details such as when and where the problem occurred. Be sure to include dates and specific information regarding the names of all people (government agencies) with whom you have a complaint. You must include your postal mailing address, we do not respond to complaints via email or on the telephone.
Please do not attach any original documents. If we need more information, we will contact you. We will let you know as soon as possible whether we can accept your case. Please be patient. We have limited resources.