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Minnesota ACLU names new executive director

John Gordon. Gordon, a long-time Minnesota litigator, has become the new head of the state’s American Civil Liberties Union.(Courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota)

ST. PAUL — A longtime Minnesota litigator has become the new head of the state's American Civil Liberties Union.

John Gordon, 69, who since February has been the interim legal director for the agency, was appointed this week to head the nonprofit, nonpartisan group.

Gordon was a lawyer with Faegre Baker Daniels, one of the largest law firms in Minneapolis, from 1974 to 2014; he became partner at the firm in 1981. While there he worked on a range of cases, largely in civil commercial litigation — everything from personal injury to trust and estate cases.

He left the firm to perform mediations and teach, working as an adjunct faculty member at the University of St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota law schools.

Gordon said he met ACLU-Minnesota's interim executive director, Teresa Nelson, while speaking at a seminar on policing in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., fatal police shooting and grew interested in getting more involved.

Gordon said he wants to spend some time meeting with staff and community supporters before establishing any focus for the agency, but said he will be eyeing how local law enforcement and federal immigration officials are interacting — or, as Gordon put it, "whether local officials are going to 'knuckle under' to (the federal Department of Justice), and, I don't know how else to put this, break the law."

He said he's also eyeing a petition the ACLU has made against the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, arguing under the Minnesota Data Practices Act that the state agency should have released squad dash camera video of the Philando Castile shooting sooner. The petition is under review by the state Supreme Court.

Gordon replaces Charles Samuelson, who retired in February after heading the organization for 20 years.