PORTLAND, Maine — The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has named Alison Beyea, director of admissions and an adjunct professor at the University of Maine School of Law, as its new executive director, the organization announced Monday.
Beyea also is a former leader with the ACLU of Nevada.
She is the permanent replacement for longtime ACLU of Maine head Shenna Bellows, who resigned in the fall in part to run as a Democrat in November’s U.S. Senate race against incumbent Republican Susan Collins.
“We are thrilled to welcome Alison Beyea to the ACLU of Maine team,” said Susan Peck, president of the ACLU of Maine board of directors, in a statement. “Throughout her impressive career, Alison has demonstrated a dedication to key civil liberties issues, including criminal justice reform, children’s rights and women’s rights. She is the perfect fit to lead the organization forward.”
Beyea said in a Monday telephone interview that she’s “honored” and “excited” by the appointment. Without any immediate court cases to focus on, she said her first goal will simply be to get settled in.
“The team here is so strong and was led by Shenna for so many years so well, at this point, my goals are to make sure I’m out and meeting with people and talking with people who have been working with the ACLU,” she said. “I want to continue reaching across the aisle and working with both parties on protecting the Bill of Rights.”
Bellows had served as the organization’s executive director for eight years, during which time it lobbied for the legalization of same-sex marriage and marijuana possession, among other things, and found success on both fronts.
Maine voters legalized same-sex marriages in 2012, and Portland voters approved a pot legalization ordinance for the state’s largest city last November.
Beyea is not the only ACLU of Maine leader with ties to the University of Maine School of Law. Zachary Heiden, the organization’s legal director, also is an adjunct faculty member at the Portland-based school.
In addition to her post as director of admissions, Beyea taught juvenile law at the school. She was previously the senior attorney for the Justice Policy Program at the Muskie School of Public Service and co-founder of Pine Tree Legal Assistance’s KIDS Legal program, which is dedicated to addressing the legal needs of low-income children, according to Monday’s ACLU announcement.
Beyea served as law clerk to Judge Kermit Lipez of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and to Chief Justice Daniel Wathen of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. She was deputy director of the ACLU of Nevada in 1993.
In addition to its work on same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, the ACLU of Maine in February scored a legal victory against the city of Portland in a lawsuit contesting an ordinance banning panhandlers, political activists and anyone else from standing in median strips. In that case, Heiden successfully convinced U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal that the ordinance was an unconstitutional infringement on the free-speech rights of panhandlers and demonstrators.
“The ACLU has developed an incredibly strong reputation as a legal and legislative powerhouse right now, and continuing on that path forward is important,” Beyea said. “The organization is here to make sure the Bill of Rights is respected for all Mainers.”