Congratulations to our 2013 Attorney of the Year, Kevin Keenan!

nullFor the last eight years, Kevin has served as Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. Kevin will be moving to New York City in December 2013.

As stated by President of San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association Rafael Castellanos: “Kevin has worked tirelessly in the San Diego and Imperial Counties to ensure the rights of Latinos and other immigrants.  He has shown great loyalty to the Latino community as a strategic partner in civil rights and justice.”

During Kevin’s tenure, the San Diego ACLU led major efforts on immigrants’ rights, border justice, voting rights, educational equality, criminal justice reform, and civic education and engagement.  His commitment to Latino issues and civil rights is exemplary.  We congratulate him on this award. Kevin received his JD from Yale Law School.

A list of the San Diego ACLU’s highlights of the past eight years with Kevin at the helm include:

  • A successful challenge to the City of Escondido’s rental ban ordinance, which required landlords to screen the immigration status of prospective tenants, as well as led adoption of a state law in 2007 to prohibit any other California cities from passing such an ordinance;
  • In June, the ACLU of California birthed the California Voting Rights Project to fight the de facto disenfranchisement bred by outdated election and registration policies systems;
  •  He published a 75-page report with Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights on the humanitarian crisis of migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border, finding that more than 5,000 people have died because of both government’s deadly practices and policies;
  • He led a rapid response to mistreatment of immigrants and people of color during the 2007 wildfire recovery, including a report issued ten days after the fires, a state law to limit public employees’ screening for immigration status during a natural disaster, and a guidebook and training on the rights of immigrants during and after a natural disaster;
  • He led a successful challenge to inhumane overcrowding conditions and denial of medical care to immigration detainees at the San Diego Correctional Facility, run by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America;
  • He challenged rampant Border Patrol abuse of power and urged for reform of lethal force policies, especially the fatal shooting of rock throwers;
  • He assisted in a “get out the vote” campaign to mobilize Escondido’s Latino vote in the 2012 Election and then establishing a long-term ACLU satellite office in Escondido staffed by a full-time community organizer to continue to respond to residents’ enduring civil liberties violations;
  • Helped mobilize a powerful, broad community response against Arizona’s racial profiling law, SB 1070; seconded a San Diego staff member to Arizona to assist its ACLU affiliate develop litigation challenging the law;
  • He won a historic ruling in a class-action lawsuit in which the federal government is now required to provide legal counsel to mentally ill immigrant detainees;
  • Fought to ensure education equality, including support for English Learners, implementing the landmark Williams settlement, challenging teacher layoffs at struggling schools, protecting parents and students from unconstitutional school fees, and guaranteeing that all students have access to rigorous curriculum to be prepared for their choice of post-secondary education.
  • With the support of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, the ACLU, and other concerned parties, documentary journalist John Carlos Frey of the Gatekeeper Foundation has uncovered information that raises serious concerns that the City of Escondido may be illegally profiting from tow fees, tow contracts, and grants received from California’s Office of Traffic Safety, in connection with its sobriety and driver’s license checkpoints.  Mr. Frey’s findings are discussed in detail in the ACLU’s report titled Wrong Turn – Escondido’s Checkpoints and Impound Practices Examined.


This is just a partial list of the incredible victories and efforts. There is likely no other person that is as worthy as Mr. Kevin Keenan to receive this award in 2013. We are so sorry to lose him in this community as he departs San Diego and wish him enormous success in his future endeavors.