|Susan K. Goering was born in 1952 in Kansas. Her family was Mennonite, part of the 16th century Protestant Reformation faith group that is well regarded for its commitment to social justice, peacemaking, simple living, and a strong work ethic--all values that underpin her life’s work. As part of a religious minority that immigrated to America to escape persecution, she understands why constitutional protections for minorities are bedrock values.
Susan attended the University of Kansas for college and law school. From 1982 to 1985, she worked on the last Brown v. Board of Education-style school segregation case, which was initiated by NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1986, Susan came to Maryland to become Legal Director of the ACLU of Maryland; in 1996, she became the organization’s Executive Director.
Though Susan continues to have deep roots in the Midwest, her most lasting contributions have been in the Free State, Maryland, where she has lived for 27 years. Upon arriving in Maryland, Susan immediately had an impact: closing deplorable, antiquated jails on the Eastern Shore, including one in Talbot County that once held prisoner Frederick Douglass.
Susan was the mastermind behind some of Maryland’s biggest civil rights cases of the last several decades – including Bradford v. Board of Education, whose judicial ruling spurred the Thornton Commission and its statewide funding formula weighted to help poor children, children needing special education, and children speaking English as a second language. The case laid the foundation for this year’s legislation to leverage bonds for an innovative $1 billion school facilities plan in Baltimore.
It was Susan’s unique ability to see the structural issues behind social problems that spurred her to bring the landmark lawsuit Thompson v. HUD, which has helped thousands of African American families who lived in Baltimore’s segregated and isolated public housing move to areas of opportunity around the region. The difference in health and opportunity for children has been tremendous.
Other notable cases brought under her leadership include “Driving While Black” litigation against the Maryland State Police; a lawsuit on behalf of same-sex couples seeking marriage equality; and the high profile case against the Maryland State Police for spying on peaceful protestors.
Susan, an active member at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, is a gardener and impassioned steward of the environment. She believes nothing should be wasted and personally brings leftover food from large work-related events to homeless shelters in Baltimore.
Her awards include the Robert M. Bell Award for Leadership in Public Service in 2006, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service’s Keeper of the Dream Award in 2000, and the Maryland Bar Foundation’s Legal Excellence Award for the Advancement of Unpopular Causes in 1994.
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2014.
© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2014