We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the midwest and beyond.
Andrew Malone is from Newnan, Georgia. He joined the ACLU of South Dakota as our the Staff Attorney in August 2018.
When did you first hear about the ACLU and why is the work appealing to you?
I first heard of the ACLU while obtaining my undergraduate degree in international political science. One of the first courses I took in the field focused on how to rebuild countries that had been torn apart by years of civil wars. The professor kept stressing how the most important step in putting a country back together was to create a functioning Rule of Law. He talked about how vital it was for people to believe that their government would treat all of its citizens fairly and in accordance with an unbiased set of laws. Then he said that it was equally important to have trusted organizations within the country that could challenge the government when it stepped out of line. He listed a few examples, including the ACLU. I was not familiar with the organization and scribbled a note in the margin of my paper to look up the term later. When I did, I was blown away by the huge role the organization has played in our country’s history. I still believe that my college professor was correct and that the work the ACLU does is a vital part of maintaining our country’s Rule of Law.
How does the ACLU and our work relate to you personally? Are there any issues you feel most connected to?
After I graduated from law school, I spent two years working for a judge in Connecticut. During this time, some of the most common cases that I worked on were appeals from people who had applied for disability benefits and been denied. The people seeking these benefits were almost always vulnerable members of society and these benefits would often have a huge impact on the quality of their lives. When I worked on these cases, I got a small window into their lives and how often they had been overlooked and left behind by a government that was supposed to be supporting them. These cases had a big impact on me and made me decide to focus my career on helping people who may otherwise be overlooked in our society.
How do you plan on using the work you do at the ACLU to advance civil rights and civil liberties for all South Dakotans?
I want to make sure that no one who is suffering a civil rights violation is overlooked or unheard. One of my responsibilities as the new staff attorney is to read our legal intakes. This is where people from around the state can write to us, tell us about issues that they are experiencing, and request assistance. Sadly, we do not have the resources to get involved in every situation that someone writes to us about; however, I can guarantee that I will read every letter that is sent to us and do my best to address as many of these issues as possible.
What would you tell someone who is considering joining the ACLU as a volunteer or member?
Do it! The ACLU is not a large organization and any support from volunteers or members is always appreciated.
What are you most looking forward to as a new member to the team?
This is where I should probably say something about how excited I am to fight for civil liberties (which I am), but I am most excited to get to explore South Dakota! I love to travel and to experience new areas of the country and I can’t wait to learn everything that I can about my new state.