ACLU of Northern California




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2017):

Revenue: $7,490,756
Expenses: $4,560,147
Assets: $7,225,077





Executive Director:

Abdi Soltani

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Northern California is an affiliate of the ACLU social-liberal activist organization based in the northern part of California in San Francisco. ACLU Foundation of Northern California advances left-of-center policies on criminal justice, liberal expansionist immigration, social-liberal interpretations of gender and sexuality, and support for the advancement of abortion. [1]

The Foundation works in concert with the ACLU of Northern California; ACLU Foundation of Northern California conducts activities allowed under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code and accepts foundation and individual tax-deductible contributions.

Korematsu v. United States

In 1942, executive director for ACLU Northern California Ernest Besig petitioned on behalf of Fred Korematsu, who had been detained for resisting President Franklin Roosevelt’s order confining Japanese Americans in internment camps. Korematsu agreed to be a plaintiff in what would eventually become a landmark Supreme Court case. Korematsu’s conviction was affirmed at every court level including the Supreme Court where, in 1944, Roosevelt’s executive order was historically described as a “military necessity” and not based on race. In 1983, Korematsu’s conviction was overturned in District Court after it was exposed that particular intelligence documents were withheld from the Supreme Court. [2] Three years after the Supreme Court’s decision on Korematsu’s case, The Court ruled in Ex parte Mitsuye Endo that citizens who have shown no disloyalty to the United States cannot be detained. [3]

Service Women’s Action Network v. Esper

In 2020, Shilpi Agarwal represented Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) in an on-going dispute related to women in military combat roles. Service Women’s Action Network vs. Esper, originally Hegar, et al. v. Panetta in 2012, argues that no constitutional clause supports a ban of women in combat roles, and that such a prohibition “outdates stereo types of women and ignores the realities of the modern military and battlefield conditions.” [4]

While the military has made experimental policies to allow women in combat training since the case originated, the case itself continues to be introduced with incumbent Secretaries of Defense as the defendants. While Agarwal was not employed with the ACLU at the time of the case’s origination in 2012, ACLU NorCal attorneys Margaret C. Crosby and Elizabeth O. Gill represented SWAN in Hegar et al. v. Panetta. Crosby and Agarwal are both representing SWAN in Service Women’s Action Network v. Esper. [5]

Crosby has also campaigned against federal law that prohibited abortions aboard military installations. Despite current law that prohibits abortions on military installations except in circumstances of rape, incest, or health anomalies, Crosby maintained that abortions should be allowed for any reason since, she claims, many women will not report sexual assault and thus would not be exempt from the law if they wanted to abort their baby. [6] The U.S. military health insurance provider, TriCare, currently only covers abortions in cases of rape, incest, and health anomalies, even if the patient is seeking an abortion off base. [7]

Carcano v. Cooper

In March 2016, then-North Carolina Governor Pat McCroy (R) passed a bill that prevented transgender people from using public restroom facilities that did not correspond with their biological sex, as indicated on their birth certificate. [8] House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, was the source of public outrage and media coverage that prompted a legal challenge by the ACLU. Elizabeth Gill, a senior staff attorney for ACLU Northern California and National ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, represented the opposition to HB2. [9] The public response prompted the NBA and NCAA to relocate games and tournaments then-scheduled in North Carolina. Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen, and many other celebrities who were scheduled to perform in North Carolina at the time of outrage also cancelled their tour stops in the state. [10]

American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California v. Burwell

In 2016, ACLU Northern California filed a complaint against the United States Department of Health and Human Services for granting funds to private refugee recovery organizations that refused to provide abortion procedures. The ACLU argued that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was violated by providing Federal funds to religious institutions. [11] In 2018, Judge Laurel Beeler concluded that HHS did not violate the Lemon test, a three-prong litmus test to determine religious entanglement with the federal government, and subsequently denied the ACLU’s motion for summary judgment. [12]

Planned Parenthood of America Federation v. Ashcroft

In 2004, ACLU Northern California provided an amicus brief challenging the passing of a Federal partial birth abortion ban. [13] In 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which prohibited a specific dilation and evacuation method of abortion, but not all methods of partial birth abortions. The ban was also challenged by other advocates across the country and was ultimately appealed to the United States Supreme Court, where, in 2007, it was upheld as constitutional in 5-4 decision of Gonzales v. Carhart. The law was challenged on two grounds: First, that it violated the “undue burden” element of the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which effectively upheld Roe v. Wade, and second, the law did not provide an exception to circumstances where the mother’s health was a risk. The Court ruled that since the law only banned a certain type of partial-birth abortion, and not the more common method, that it did not violate the “undue burden” precedent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and that women who had health issues were not endangered by this ban because the method banned was not a medicinal necessity and was not the method of choice for circumstance where the woman’s life is at risk. [14]

Bahena v. ICE

In 2020, ACLU Northern California and ACLU Southern California petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of 13 illegal immigrants being held in a California detention center. Advocates say the detainees are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic because of their advanced age and underlying medical conditions. [15] At the time of petition, the 13 detainees were being held at Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield, California and Yuba County Jail in Marysville, California. The petition was filed on March 24, 2020 and, on April 8, 2020, was granted partial favor with four of the thirteen detainees ordered to be released. [16]


Abdi Soltani is the executive director for ACLU NorCal. After graduating college, Soltani joined and subsequently became executive director of Californians for Justice. The center was established after the passage of California Proposition 187, which would have effectively prohibited illegal immigrants from using state benefits such as non-emergency health care education benefits. [17] The law was challenged through the courts and ultimately withdrawn after Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, was elected and intervened. Soltani has since opposed numerous legislative initiatives aimed at requiring citizenship for voting. In an interview with Monterey County Now, Soltani said that allegedly there is a concerted effort to pass voter suppression laws across the country and that the ACLU will work with both Democrats and Republicans to challenge the laws before or after passing. [18]

Kevin Baker is the legislative director for ACLU Northern California. In this capacity, Baker manages the agenda for which the group will attempt to influence legislation at the state level in California. Prior to joining the ACLU, Baker was deputy chief council for the California Assembly’s Committee on the Judiciary. His areas of policy focused on civil rights, immigration, privacy, and constitutional law. [19] [20] Baker is also a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Davis School of Law. [21]


  1. American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2017. ^
  2. “Facts and Case Summary – Korematsu v. U.S.” United States Courts. Accessed April 27, 2020. ^
  3. “Ex Parte Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944).” Justia Law. Accessed April 27, 2020. ^
  4. “Hegar Et Al. v. Panetta.” Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, November 27, 2012. ^
  5. “Service Women’s Action Network v. Esper.” Law360. Accessed April 24, 2020. ^
  6. Crosby, Maggie. “California’s Military Women Support Our Freedom. Shouldn’t We Support Theirs?” American Civil Liberties Union, February 17, 2012. ^
  7. “Covered Services: Abortions.” TRICARE. Accessed April 24, 2020. ^
  8. Schneider, Elena, Nolan D. Mccaskill, and Caitlin Emma. “North Carolina Republicans Brace for ‘Bathroom Law’ Blowback.” POLITICO, May 9, 2016. ^
  9. “CARCAÑO v. COOPER: 350 F.Supp.3d 388 (2018)…: 20181004864.” Leagle. United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina. Accessed April 24, 2020. ^
  10. “ACLU of Northern California v. Burwell – Complaint.” American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Accessed April 24, 2020. ^
  11. “ACLU of Northern California v. Burwell – Complaint.” American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Accessed April 24, 2020. ^
  13. “Amicus Brief: Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Ashcroft.” ACLU NorCal, March 25, 2004. ^
  14. “Gonzales v. Carhart.” Oyez. Accessed April 26, 2020. ^
  15. “Petition for Habeas Corpus and Complaint.” ACLU SoCal. American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, March 24, 2020. ^
  16. Chesney, Maxine M. “Order Re: Petitioners’ Motion For Temporary Restraining Order; Directions To Parties.” ACLU SoCal. United States District Court Northern District of California, April 8, 2020. ^
  17. “California Proposition 187, Illegal Aliens Ineligible for Public Benefits (1994).” Ballotpedia. Accessed April 26, 2020.,_Illegal_Aliens_Ineligible_for_Public_Benefits_(1994). ^
  18. Ryce, Walter. “Abdi Soltani.” Monterey County Weekly, January 23, 2020. ^
  19. Menu SLS |Events. “How to Use Your J.D. in the Rough-and-Tumble Policy World.” Stanford Law School. Accessed April 24, 2020. ^
  20. Renda, Matthew, and Nick Cahill. “California Data-Privacy Law Survives Bids to Weaken It.” Courthouse News Service, September 13, 2019. ^
  21. “Faculty.” UC Davis School of Law – Faculty & Administration – Visiting Lecturers. Accessed April 24, 2020. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Amanda Keton
    Former Board Member
  2. Maya Harris
    Former Executive Director
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: March - February
  • Tax Exemption Received: April 1, 1972

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Mar Form 990 $7,490,756 $4,560,147 $7,225,077 $945,920 N $4,027,109 $3,091,558 $3,941 $470,289
    2016 Mar Form 990 $2,751,354 $2,440,176 $3,837,739 $520,860 N $1,853,532 $890,050 $2,379 $34,816 PDF
    2015 Mar Form 990 $2,019,091 $2,163,898 $3,328,279 $322,577 N $1,373,798 $635,779 $2,135 $46,514 PDF
    2014 Mar Form 990 $1,934,171 $2,048,963 $3,584,717 $434,208 N $1,676,478 $253,519 $2,553 $59,811 PDF
    2013 Mar Form 990 $2,202,552 $2,136,864 $3,393,733 $131,217 N $1,461,123 $739,149 $2,280 $63,387 PDF
    2012 Mar Form 990 $2,304,254 $1,814,502 $3,391,945 $195,117 N $1,715,635 $585,192 $2,178 $63,386 PDF
    2011 Mar Form 990 $1,778,119 $1,545,572 $2,825,726 $118,650 N $1,573,997 $197,107 $2,355 $55,362 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    ACLU of Northern California

    39 DRUMM ST
    SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94111-4805