FacultyFaculty/Author Profile

Colleen K. Connell

Roger Baldwin Foundation of ACLU
Executive Director, ACLU of Illinois
Chicago, IL, USA


In January of 200 I, Colleen Connell became the first woman attorney to lead the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois Ms. Connell joined the staff of the ACLU of Illinois in 1984. A native of North Dakota, she was graduated from North Dakota State University and the University of Iowa School of Law, where she was Order of the Coif and Special Projects Editor of the Iowa Law Review. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Ms. Connell served as the ACLU's Associate Legal Director and Director of the Reproductive Rights Project. In that capacity, she directed the  organization's litigation efforts involving constitutional rights of privacy and protecting the rights of Illinois citizens to make decisions concerning reproductive matters and child-bearing, without undue governmental restriction. She successfully challenged several generations of restrictive abortion laws, laws restricting access to contraception, laws requiring parental notification of a minor's decision to have an abortion, and laws restricting access to and performance of several forms of prenatal testing, such as chorionic villus screening. She litigated key cases defining the scope of permissible intervention and standing before the Seventh Circuit and the Supreme Court. She also litigated a wide variety of other cases, including matters involving rights of the mentally ill; equal access to education; housing discrimination; employment discrimination on behalf of women, freedom of speech and association; and other constitutional rights.

Her legal practice has taken her to courts of all levels in both the state and federal justice system. She has argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on important matters involving the rights of women to control their own reproductive health. As Executive Director of the ACLU, Ms. Connell has expanded the organization's legislative and communications programs, as well as presided over an ambitious expansion of the organization's national security and informational privacy docket, and an expansion of the ACLU of Illinois' institutional reform litigation, with active cases challenging conditions in state facilities or state subsidized facilities for children, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled, the physically disabled, and people detained at correctional facilities.

Ms. Connell resides in Chicago with her husband and two children.
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