June 18, 2023

June 2023: Caroline McNamara

Caroline McNamara, Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida; ACS Next Generation Leader

Caroline McNamara (she/her)
Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida; ACS Next Generation Leader

 I've been practicing law, mostly federal court litigation, for almost fifteen years. The American Constitution Society has been part of my journey from the beginning, when I joined the University of Washington student chapter as a 1L back in 2006. During my 2L year I served as Chapter President, and I became a Next Generation Leader in 2009. From there I ventured north to Alaska for a federal clerkship, then spent a decade as a commercial litigator in New York City and Denver. But the best stage yet of my career began in January 2022, when I returned to my original hometown—Miami, Florida—to join the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida as a Staff Attorney. I am proud of the work we're doing on the front lines of our societal battle over our rights, our democracy, our health, and our humanity.

I joined the ACLU of Florida specifically to protect our right to vote, and we have won important victories over the last eighteen months in each of Florida's three federal judicial districts. In Tallahassee we invalidated a discriminatory state law that severely limited the ability of citizen ballot initiatives to raise money for the massively expensive undertaking of qualifying a constitutional amendment for the Florida general election ballot. That victory feeds directly into the current campaign by Floridians Protecting Freedom to protect our right to abortion. In Jacksonville, we brought suit to end forty years of racially gerrymandering the City Council districts. That lawsuit resulted in a final settlement last month approving a map offered by our clients—the same map used in the spring 2023 municipal elections held under the preliminary injunction we won late last year. And in Miami, we are currently working to end thirty years of racially discriminatory City Commission districts, as we enforce the preliminary injunction our clients received last month striking down the map approved by the Commission in 2022.

These victories have provided a beacon of hope cutting through the dark cloud of authoritarianism that shrouds Florida. We're fighting on many fronts down here. I'm especially proud of the appellees' brief we just filed with the Eleventh Circuit in Pernell v. Lamb, defending the preliminary injunction we won last year to preserve the right of Florida's state universities to teach about systemic racism and its impact across American history. Go read our brief (CA11 docket 23-13992) and see why I'm so proud to be on this team.

But I'm also trans. When I left Denver for Miami, many questioned the wisdom of returning to Florida. I knew that Florida and neighboring states treated their trans residents with hostility and contempt—that's why I left in the first place—but that only strengthened my resolve to do this work right here right now. I learned the hard way that hiding yourself won't help you either personally or in your legal career. I tried to live as someone I wasn't. I tried to practice law while wearing a mask. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. No. Be yourself. Your clients need you. They need all of you. We need all of you. And the American Constitution Society is here to support you along the way.

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