Tuesday, November 30, 2010
ACLU-SC Names Attorney Villagra as Executive Director
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Southern California affiliate yesterday named Hector Villagra as its next executive director.
Villagra, 42, is currently the group’s legal director and will succeed Ramona Ripston in the post on Feb. 15. Ripston is retiring after 38 years.
The ACLU/SC said Villagra will be the first Latino to hold the position.
“It is a humbling honor to be tasked with leading an organization that has meant so much to Southern California,” Villagra said in a statement. “So many diverse communities find themselves in need of civil liberties protections, and I intend to continue this organization’s proud tradition of protecting everyone’s rights.”
Ripston said she was “elated and thrilled” with the selection.
“Los Angeles and Southern California must show the rest of the nation what it means to function in a multiethnic, civically engaged society,” Ripston commented. “Hector’s intelligence and experience will make him a leader in that effort.”
A native of Southern California, Villagra earned his law degree from Columbia University School of Law in 1994. His undergraduate degree is also from Columbia.
He joined the ACLU/SC in 2005, and became legal director last year.
In announcing the selection, the group highlighted Villagra’s work in a number of cases, including Sturgeon v. Bratton in which the Court of Appeal upheld Los Angeles Police Department Special Order 40, which prohibits officers from using immigration status to initiate investigations. Villagra and other ACLU lawyers represented immigration advocates who intervened in the suit brought by a taxpayer against police officials.
The court ruled that the directive was not, on its face, preempted by state and federal law.
Villagra was also involved in a First Amendment suit by a Buddhist congregation against the City of Garden Grove, which the congregation said had wrongfully denied it a building permit. The permit was granted after Villagra and other ACLU lawyers brought the suit in 2006. In another freedom-of-religion case, VIllagra reached a settlement with San Bernardino County over a jail policy requiring Muslim women to remove the hijab, or headscarf, the wearing of which is a matter of religious belief.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company