The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has named Peter Eliasberg, Ahilan Arulanantham and Belinda Escobosa Helzer to head up its legal team in Los Angeles and Orange County.
“I am extremely pleased to name Peter, Ahilan, and Belinda to these leadership positions. They have distinguished themselves in their passionate devotion to and defense of civil liberties and civil rights,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU/SC. “Through their expertise and vision, they will ensure that the legal advocacy of the ACLU of Southern California remains at the forefront.”
Eliasberg, 50, has been named to succeed Villagra as the legal director of the ACLU of Southern California. His appointment fills the vacancy left by Villagra, who became executive director of the ACLU/SC on Feb. 15.
Eliasberg joined the ACLU/SC in 1996 and until February 2011 served as the Managing Attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the Manheim Family Attorney for First Amendment Rights.
“It’s a great honor for me to have a job held by such legendary attorneys as Paul Okrand, Paul L. Hoffman, Mark Rosenbaum and Hector Villagra,” Eliasberg said. “It’s also a challenge given the incredible pressures confronting civil rights and liberties.”
During his time at the ACLU/SC Eliasberg, has worked on landmark civil rights cases. He represented Frank Buono in the United States Supreme Court in an Establishment Clause challenge to the presence of a cross on federal land in Buono v. Salazar (aka Salazar v. Buono, in the United States Supreme Court).
He has also represented a group of bus riders with disabilities who sued the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority over the agency’s failure to provide accessible buses. And in Williams v. State of California, he represented a class of school children challenging the State of California's failure to provide basic education necessities -- including clean and safe school facilities, adequate textbooks, and trained teachers.
Villagra also announced Arulanantham will become the ACLU/SC deputy legal director. Arulanantham, 38, joined the ACLU/SC in 2004 and until February 2011 served as the Director of Immigrants’ Rights and National Security.
“I’m excited to take on this new role and help the ACLU/SC respond to the human and civil rights challenges facing Southern California residents,” said Arulanantham.
Arulanantham has successfully litigated several landmark cases, including a challenge to the federal government’s policy of forcibly drugging immigrants during deportation efforts and several cases on behalf of people detained as national security threats, both in the United States and abroad.
The ACLU/SC has also named Belinda Escobosa Helzer as the director of the Orange County office. Escobosa Helzer, 38,joined the ACLU/SC in 2005, where she has served as a staff attorney in the Orange County office.
Escobosa Helzer has worked as counsel on civil rights cases ranging from free speech, to religious freedom, due process and law enforcement abuse. In Vietnamese Budddhism Study Temple of America v. City of Garden Grove, she sued Garden Grove officials to protect the rights of a Vietnamese Buddhist congregation to build a temple in that city. The lawsuit led to a settlement that allowed the congregation to build its temple and freely worship together.
“As a lifelong resident of Orange County, I am honored to continue to fight for and protect the civil rights of all residents in the region,” Escobosa Helzer said.