ACLU’s legal director departs

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American Civil Liberties Union legal director Lauren Bonds, once described as “quiet thunder,” is stepping down after playing a pivotal role in the group’s legal efforts.

Bonds, a former track star at the University of Kansas, is headed to the National Lawyers Guild where she will serve as legal director.

The guild provides legal support for political activists, protesters and other initiatives seeking social change.

Bonds had been part of a renaissance at the ACLU of Kansas, which has grown into legal force in Kansas in recent years.

“Lauren built a formidable legal machine here and Kansans across the state benefitted from it,” ACLU of Kansas Executive Director Nadine Johnson said in a statement Saturday night.

Bonds emerged as a  top legal foe of former Secretary of State Kris Kobach as the ACLU successfully challenged the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement for registering to vote and a national database that his office had used to detect voter fraud.

The Hutchinson native played key roles in other prominent cases such as the lawsuit seeking to stop Ford County from moving one of Dodge City’s two polling sites to an isolated area outside of town.

She also represented student protesters who were kicked out of the Capitol after unfurling mammoth banners in the rotunda while demonstrating for expansion of Medicaid.

Also, Bonds and the ACLU  went to bat for students in Johnson County claiming that the Shawnee Mission School District censored students and violated their free speech rights during a 2018 walkout to protest gun violence. The case was settled.

It hasn’t been all success.

Last year, the ACLU dropped its lawsuit against the Kansas Corporation Commission on behalf of two environmentalists who it claimed  were retaliated against for protesting fracking operations in the Flint Hills.

The lawsuit was dropped after a federal judge ruled that members of the Kansas Corporation Commission were immune from liability.

The ACLU’s former executive director, Micah Kubic, described Bonds as “quiet thunder,”  because of her low key, but intense approach to issues.

“I think we’re very, very fortunate to have Lauren work on behalf of civil liberties and civil rights in Kansas,” Kubic told the Hutchinson News in a 2018 profile on Bonds.

“She’s a brilliant attorney. She’s passionate about issues that matter to Kansans, she’s a hard worker and never gives up on a fight.”

After joining the ACLU in 2017, Bonds told the Ottawa Herald that the ACLU had doubled the number of cases it was handling.

“I think that there is more kind of a stronger sense of activism among Kansans, who feel that the state or municipalities are violating their rights,” Bonds said in a 2019 interview.

“It’s fantastic that people have had the courage to step forward and fix these problems that in a lot of cases have been going on for a long time.”

Bonds attended KU on an athletic scholarship where she was a two-time Division I All-American in track and four-time Academic All-American.

She was Big 12 Champion in the 1,500 meters in 2010, an 11-time All-Big 12 performer in indoor and outdoor track, the Hutchinson News reported in 2018.

Her mother, Lisa, told the newspaper that sports drove her daughter’s work ethic.

“She ran professionally even when in law school … The idea that if you work hard and do what you think you need to do, generally you’ll improve in whatever you’re doing. I think she carries that into her current job,” she said.

At KU, Bonds earned undergraduate degrees in political science and history.

Bonds received her law degree from Duke University and  while in law school she  worked for the Texas Civil Rights Project and Equal Rights Advocates.

She also participated in the school’s Guantanamo Defense Clinic.

Before joining the ACLU, Bonds worked as assistant general Counsel at the Service Employees International Union where she represented low-income workers in employment and civil rights litigation.