ACLU of Michigan has new leadership of legal program

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced Dan Korobkin will serve as its next legal director and Bonsitu Kitaba will be deputy legal director. Michael J. Steinberg, who has been legal director for 22 years, left the organization to teach full-time at the University of Michigan Law School. Korobkin and Kitaba assumed their positions Sept. 3.

Korobkin is a nationally recognized civil rights litigator and has served as the ACLU of Michigan’s deputy legal director for the past five years. His civil rights advocacy spans issues from criminal law reform to LGBT rights, to freedom of speech, and religion.

Korobkin, who grew up in Ann Arbor,  has spearheaded the ACLU of Michigan’s fight to end the state’s practice of sentencing children to life in prison without the possibility of parole, challenged the unconstitutional “pay or stay” sentencing practices of local courts that created virtual debtor’s prisons, and earlier this year launched a class action lawsuit against Detroit’s 36th District Court for its unconstitutional bail practices. He is also recognized as a pioneer in protecting the rights of medical marijuana patients. He represents a class of schoolchildren seeking special education services in the wake of the Flint Water Crisis, and is part of the legal team representing Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman whose employment discrimination case will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this October.

Korobkin has a law degree from Yale Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College. Prior to working at the ACLU, Korobkin served as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson in Montgomery, Alabama, and to Judge Robert D. Sack on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. He has also worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.

The Detroit Bar Association described Kitaba two years ago as “One to Watch,” because of her commitment, drive, legal acumen, and leadership. Her passion for social justice and determination to make, in her words, “the biggest impact for the most number of people” is what drew her to the ACLU of Michigan, where she has been a staff attorney for the past three years.

Her work at ACLU includes fighting for clean water in Flint, ending illegal tax foreclosures in Detroit, and stopping deportations of Iraqi nationals who face persecution, torture, or death if forcibly returned to Iraq. Kitaba has also long been active in Ethiopia’s Oromo community, serving non-profits committed to ensuring an independent media and promoting employment and education opportunities for teens and immigrants in the region. Kitaba’s favorite word best captures what she strives to achieve for the people she represents: “Billisumma.” It is from the Oromo language of East Africa and means “freedom from oppression.”

Kitaba obtained her law degree from Wayne State University Law School and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto. After graduation, she joined Dykema Gossett PLLC as a commercial litigator where she pursued opportunities to represent clients pro bono. She successfully secured a visa for a survivor of human trafficking and represented prisoners in civil rights cases.

Previously, she interned for the Hon. Nancy Edmunds of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and the  Sugar Law Center.