National ACLU President Nadine Strossen (L) with Elinor Alger at the ACLU of Ohio's annual dinner in 1991, where Elinor was honored for her contributions to the defense of civil liberties.

Elinor R. Alger, former staff attorney and acting legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, died April 15, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.

Elinor spent her early life in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where she and her husband Chad were active human rights advocates. Elinor was a member of the ACLU and the League of Women Voters, and Chad was a member of Americans for Democratic Action. Elinor and her family moved to Columbus in 1971, where she obtained her law degree from Capital University to pursue her interest in human rights. Before joining the ACLU, Elinor chaired the board of directors of Court Watching Project, Inc., an independent, nonprofit corporation designed to develop an informed citizen constituency for the Franklin County court system. Elinor joined the ACLU of Ohio staff in 1980 as an attorney, serving until 1991. She stepped in as acting legal director from 1987-1989. Elinor worked on cases involving election law, women’s rights, prisoners’ rights, and juvenile justice.

Elinor’s most well known case was Stuart v. Rhodes, in which the ACLU sought to close the Ohio Penitentiary, arguing that conditions were inhumane and violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The prison was overcrowded and conditions were poor, with riots, hostage situations, and inmate deaths occurring on a regular basis. Despite calls for prison reform and previous efforts to have the Penitentiary closed, nothing was done until the ACLU filed suit on behalf of the prisoners in 1978. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Duncan ordered the prison closed, with the last prisoner required to leave by December 31, 1983. In the interim, the prison was required to reduce population, limit double celling, increase recreation time and facilities, and improve hygiene, sanitation, and fire safety. Though Elinor did not join the Stuart v. Rhodes legal team until after the initial ruling in late 1979, she became lead legal counsel on the case, seeing it through numerous appeals and ensuring continued compliance with the interim provisions

Elinor again defended prisoners’ rights with Doe v. Burwell in 1982. This case, filed on behalf of juveniles incarcerated with adult offenders in the Lawrence County Jail, went on to inspire a television movie called Crime of Innocence. Elinor was also involved in several women’s rights cases, such as Cox v. Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Branch in 1988, and State v. Grey in 1989, which both dealt with the rights of pregnant women with drug addictions.

In 1991, Elinor was honored for her contributions to civil rights at the ACLU of Ohio’s Annual Awards Dinner.