Gilles Bissonnette is the Legal Director at the ACLU of New Hampshire, where he leads a team of three civil rights lawyers. He has litigated cases on the criminalization of poverty, voting, police and government accountability, public records, the First Amendment, immigrants’ rights, and criminal justice issues. Gilles has testified before the New Hampshire legislature on hundreds of bills impacting civil liberties. In 2021, his legal team -- along with co-counsel -- received the Granite State Advocacy Award from the New Hampshire Association for Justice for their legal work on behalf of medically-vulnerable immigrants being civilly detained amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to joining the ACLU in 2013, Gilles was a civil litigator in Boston at the law firms of Choate Hall & Stewart LLP, Todd & Weld LLP, and Cooley LLP. Gilles clerked for Judge Thomas M. Golden of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Gilles received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law where he was the Chief Comments Editor of the UCLA Law Review. He received his B.A. and M.A. in history from Washington University in St. Louis.
Gilles is admitted to practice law in the state and federal courts in New Hampshire, the federal courts in Massachusetts, the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. Gilles has taught multiple Continuing Legal Education courses on government transparency, as well as on the United States and New Hampshire Constitutions. He is a member of the Hearings Committee of the Attorney Discipline System, as well as the Federal Court Advisory Committee where he is on the subcommittee that reviews changes to the Local Rules. He is also a trustee of the New Hampshire Supreme Court Society. He lives in Concord with his partner, Reagan, and son, Sage.
Representative cases include the following:
- Saucedo v. State of New Hampshire, 335 F. Supp. 3d 202 (D.N.H. 2018) (striking down, on procedural due process grounds, a New Hampshire law that invalidated the absentee ballots of hundreds of voters, many of whom are disabled, based on signature comparisons without notice or an opportunity to cure).
- Guare v. State of New Hampshire, 167 N.H. 658 (2015) (striking down voter registration form language that would impose a chilling effect on the right to vote of those domiciled in New Hampshire).
FIRST AMENDMENT/FREE SPEECH
- Rideout v. State of New Hampshire, 123 F. Supp. 3d 218 (D.N.H. 2015), aff'd, 838 F.3d 65 (1st Cir. 2016), cert denied, 137 S. Ct. 1435 (2017) (striking down New Hampshire law banning online "ballot selfies" on grounds that it violates the First Amendment).
- Valentin v. City of Manchester, No. 15-cv-00235-PB (D.N.H.) (secured $275,000 settlement in lawsuit addressing the First Amendment right to record the police where ACLU-NH client was arrested for audio recording a conversation with two Manchester police department officers while in a public place and while the officers were performing their official duties).
- State of New Hampshire v. Andersen, No. 218-2018-cr-00241 (N.H. Super. Ct., Rockingham Cty. Aug. 31, 2018) (vacating "gag order" that barred disclosure of police reports because the order was "sweeping" and "violate[d] the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Part I, Article 22 of the New Hampshire Constitution").
- State of New Hampshire v. Bonacorsi, Nos. 218-2014-CR-01357, 218-2015-CR-868, 2016 N.H. Super. LEXIS 22 (N.H. Super. Ct., Rockingham Cty. May 18, 2016) (narrowing and striking down portions of online identifier statute on First Amendment grounds).
- State of New Hampshire v. Clay, No. 450-2015-cr-00414 (N.H. 4th Cir., Dist. Div., Laconia June 9, 2015) (securing dismissal of disorderly conduct charge on First Amendment grounds where client was arrested during a public meeting simply for engaging in political, non-disruptive speech on matters of public concern).
- Clay v. Town of Alton, No. 15-cv-00279-JL (D.N.H.) (secured $42,500 settlement in lawsuit where, in violation of the First Amendment, client was arrested during a public meeting simply for engaging in political, non-disruptive speech on matters of public concern).
- Frese v. Town of Exeter (secured $17,500 settlement from Town of Exeter after the Exeter Police Department arrested our client in May 2018, after he posted comments to an article on Facebook alleging that the local police chief “covered up for [a] dirty cop”).
- Albert v. City of Manchester (secured $17,500 settlement in a case where client was wrongly arrested for recording in public).
- Kearns v. Town of Littleton (secured $17,500 settlement and further police training in case where client was arrested simply for allegedly swearing at a parking enforcement official in violation of the First Amendment).
- City of Keene v. Cleaveland, 167 N.H. 731 (2015) (affirming, in part, dismissal of civil causes of action against speakers on the ground that "the First Amendment shields the respondents from tort liability for the challenged conduct"; as amicus).
- Automated Transactions, LLC v. American Bankers Association, 172 N.H. 528 (2019) (affirming dismissal of defamation case alleging that use of the term "patent troll" was defamatory, and concluding that the usage of the term was protected opinion; as amicus).
- Robson Xavier Gomes, et al. v. Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 460 F. Supp. 3d 132 (D.N.H. 2020) (holding that medically vulnerable civil immigration detainees at the Strafford County Department of Corrections are constitutionally entitled to bail hearings amid the COVID-19 pandemic); Robson Xavier Gomes, et al. v. Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, No. 20-cv-453-LM, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77945 (D.N.H. May 4, 2020) (provisionally certifying class of civil immigration detainees at the Strafford County Department of Corrections seeking individual bail hearings to determine whether they should be released amid the COVID-19 pandemic because of the inability to be 6-feet apart from other detainees).
- State of New Hampshire v. McCarthy, et al., No. 469-2017-cr-01888, et al., (N.H. 2nd Cir. Ct., Dist. Div., Plymouth May 1, 2018), reconsideration denied on Aug. 21, 2018 (holding that border patrol checkpoints conducted by Customs and Border Patrol, in conjunction with the local police, in Woodstock, NH 90 driving miles from the border violated Part I, Article 19 of the New Hampshire Constitution and the Fourth Amendment).
- Awawdeh v. Town of Exeter, et al., No. 18-cv-852-LM (D.N.H.) (settled lawsuit for $39,175 and policy change where the Exeter Police Department unlawfully arrested for ICE a man on the suspicion that he was in the United States unlawfully after the man assisted the Department with a criminal investigation by providing translation services).
- Velasco Perea v. Town of Northwood, et al., No. 18-cv-1066-LM (D.N.H.) (settled lawsuit for $12,500 and policy change where the Northwood Police Department unlawfully arrested for ICE a documented man on the suspicion that he was in the United States unlawfully).
- Godoy-Ramirez v. Town of Merrimack, No. 1:19-cv-01236-JD (D.N.H.) (settled lawsuit for $60,000 and policy change where the Merrimack Police Department unlawfully held for ICE for more than an hour a passenger in a car that had broken down on the side of the road).
- Rivera-Medrano v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Security, No. 20-cv-194-JD, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59609 (D.N.H. Apr. 4, 2020) (holding that due process required that an immigrant held by ICE for over 8 months must be provided a bond hearing).
- Hernandez-Lara v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, No. 19-cv-394-LM, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124144 (D.N.H. July 25, 2019) (holding that ICE violated client's due process rights when it conducted a bond hearing where she had the burden of showing that she was not a danger and not a flight risk; further ruling that due process requires that the burden of showing dangerousness and flight risk has to be on the government by clear and convincing evidence).
- Hernandez-Lara v. Barr, 962 F.3d 45 (1st Cir. 2020) (concluding that immigration judge violated immigrant's statutory right to counsel by not providing immigrant sufficient time to obtain counsel).
- Hussein v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, No. 18-cv-921-JL (D.N.H. Nov. 6, 2018) (ruling that ICE’s decision to detain client in immigration custody for 9 months without a bond hearing was unconstitutional and violated procedural due process, and ordering that a bond hearing be conducted).
- Compere v. Nielsen, 358 F. Supp. 3d 170 (D.N.H. 2019) (ruling that the government’s plan to deport Mr. Compere to Haiti while his motion to reopen was pending violated his rights under federal law; further ruling that, because habeas corpus is the only means available to Mr. Compere to protect his right to continue litigating his motion to reopen, the Suspension Clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents the jurisdiction-stripping provisions in federal law from being used to deny the Court’s jurisdiction).
- Korat v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Security, 19-cv-111 (D.N.H.) (secured citizenship for an Army Specialist from India who enlisted through a specialized military program that aims to recruit skilled immigrants in exchange for expediting the citizenship process, but had his naturalization delayed for approximately two years).
- Ahmed-Cali v. U.S. Attorney General, No. 19-cv-426-JL (D.N.H.) (secured release of Somalian immigrant who had been in continuous detention since 2016 – totaling two years and seven months -- after he fled Somalia and sought asylum in the U.S. due to threats against his family).
- Brito v. Barr, 415 F. Supp. 3d 258 (D. Mass. 2019) (holding that, under the Constitution's Due Process Clause and the Administrative Procedures Act, immigrants in New England are entitled to bond hearings at which the government bears the burden of justifying an immigrant’s detention, and at which the immigration court must also consider someone’s ability to pay when setting a bond amount; ACLU of Massachusetts lead counsel).
- Smorodska v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, No. 20-cv-446-JL (D.N.H. May 14, 2020) (holding that due process required ICE to provide an administrative bond hearing for immigrant petitioner who had been held by ICE for over 13 months) (local counsel).
- Devitri v. Cronen, 289 F. Supp. 3d 287 (D. Mass. 2018) (lawsuit protecting 50 Indonesian Americans from immediate deportation who likely faced persecution or torture in Indonesia due to their Christian faith).
- Perez-Trujillo v. Garland, Nos. 11-1481, 17-1586, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 19169 (1st Cir. June 28, 2021) (in part, in granting 2017 petition for review, holding that "the BIA was required to consider in an individualized manner the hardship that [the immigrant] might suffer if he were required to return to El Salvador but ... failed to undertake such consideration in reversing the immigration judge's grant of his application for adjustment of status").
CRIMINALIZATION OF POVERTY
- Petrello v. City of Manchester, No. 16-cv-008-LM, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 144793 (D.N.H. Sep. 7, 2017) (striking down, on First Amendment grounds, Manchester's anti-panhandling ordinance, as well as permanently enjoining Manchester's anti-panhandling police practices; case settled for $89,000 in attorneys' fees and damages).
- Pendleton v. City of Nashua (secured $15,000 settlement in a case where homeless client was arrested and spent 33 days in jail simply for walking along a public foot path in the park adjacent to the Nashua Public Library in violation of his First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights).
- Pendleton v. Town of Hudson, No. 14-cv-00365-PB (D.N.H.) (secured $37,500 settlement and permanent consent order in lawsuit where Town detained, harassed, threatened, dispersed, and cited peaceful panhandlers in violation of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments).
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM/DUE PROCESS
- Doe v. Commissioner, No. 18-cv-1039-JD, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75759 (D.N.H. Apr. 30, 2020) (ruling that State is obligated to provide due process to those suspected of experiencing a mental health crisis within three days of their detention in a hospital emergency room); Doe v. Commissioner, No. 18-cv-1039-JD, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78387 (D.N.H. May 4, 2020) (certifying case as class action, and certifying ACLU-NH as class counsel); Doe v. Commissioner, No. 18-cv-1039-JD, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 238431 (D.N.H. Dec. 18, 2020) (denying 11th Amendment immunity).
- Doe v. Commissioner, No. 2020-0454, 2021 N.H. LEXIS 72 (N.H. Sup. Ct. May 11, 2021) (holding that the State "has a duty mandated by statute to provide for probable cause hearings within three days of when an involuntary emergency certificate is completed"; as amicus on behalf of federal class).
- State v. Jones, 172 N.H. 774 (2020) (agreeing with amicus ACLU that that "race is an appropriate circumstance to consider in conducting the totality of the circumstances seizure analysis" in determining whether a person feels free to leave and therefore is seized under the Constitution).
- State of New Hampshire v. Brawley, 171 N.H. 333 (2018) (agreeing with amicus ACLU-NH that legislature's 2017 law aimed at curbing debtors' prisons practices applies to the State’s efforts to recoup public defender fees from indigent defendants).
- Doe v. State of New Hampshire, 167 N.H. 382 (2015) (New Hampshire's retroactive, lifetime registration requirements for certain offenders are “punitive in effect” and therefore unconstitutional as applied to client under New Hampshire Constitution's bar on retrospective laws).
- State of New Hampshire v. Mazzaglia, No. 2014-0592 (N.H. Sup. Ct. Sept. 29, 2016) (New Hampshire Supreme Court order agreeing with the position of the victim, victims’ rights advocates, and the ACLU-NH that documents concerning a victim’s prior consensual sexual activity should be sealed pending appeal; as amicus).
- State of New Hampshire v. Brouillette, 166 N.H. 487 (2014) (holding that indigent defendants who have secured private counsel — including on a pro bono basis — have the right to obtain state funds for experts and other ancillary defense services necessary for an adequate defense; as amicus).
- Petition of State of New Hampshire, 166 N.H. 659 (2014) (applying retroactively U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment; as amicus).
PUBLIC ACCESS/POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY
- Union Leader Corp. and ACLU-NH v. Town of Salem, 173 N.H. 345 (N.H. 2020) (overruling 1993 Fenniman decision in holding that the public's interest in disclosure must be balanced in determining whether the "internal personnel practices" exemption applies to requested records); Union Leader Corp. and ACLU-NH v. Town of Salem, No. 218-2018-cv-01406 (Rockingham Cty. Super. Ct. Jan. 21, 2021) (on remand, holding that almost all of an internal audit concerning the culture and internal affairs practices of the Salem Police Department should be public).
- Seacoast Newspapers, Inc. v. City of Portsmouth, 173 N.H. 325 (N.H. 2020) (overruling 1993 Fenniman decision in holding that the "internal personnel practices" exemption only narrowly covers "records pertaining to the internal rules and practices governing an agency’s operationsand employee relations, not information concerning theperformance of a particular employee").
- New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, et al./ACLU-NH v. N.H. Department of Justice, 173 N.H. 648 (2020) (holding that a list of over 275 New Hampshire police officers who have engaged in misconduct that reflects negatively on their credibility or trustworthiness is not exempt from disclosure under RSA 105:13-b or the "internal personnel practices" and "personnel file" exemptions; remanding for application of public interest balancing test).
- Provenza v. Town of Canaan, No. 215-2020-cv-155 (Grafton Cty. Super. Ct. Dec. 2, 2020) (holding that an internal investigation report concerning an allegation that an officer engaged in excessive force is a public document because the public interest in disclosure trumps any privacy interest the officer may have).
- ACLU-NH and Union Leader Corp. v. Salem Police Dep't, No. 218-2021-cv-00026 (Rockingham Cty. Super. Ct. July 20, 2021) (holding that police investigatory records should be publicly disclosed concerning an off-duty officer who evaded police during a high-speed chase but was not criminally charged until years later); State of New Hampshire v. Verrocchi, No. 218-2020-cr-00077 (Rockingham Cty. Super. Ct. June 17, 2021) (ordering unsealing of arrest warrant affidavit concerning investigation of this incident).
- State v. Letendre, No. 219-2020-cr-0792 (Strafford Cty. Super. Ct. Feb. 4, 2021) (holding that disclosure of 49-page investigatory report documenting police misconduct would not infringe on right of defendant officer to receive a fair trial).
- Officer A.B. v. Grafton County Attorney's Office, No. 18-cv-1437 (Grafton Cty. Super. Ct. Apr. 11, 2019) (holding that officer who engaged in misconduct could not be removed by court from the EES List).
- Avery v. Commissioner of N.H. Dep't of Corrections, 173 N.H. 726 (2020) (holding that sovereign immunity does not apply to a claim to enforce a consent agreement entered into by the State to require certain services to state correctional detainees; as amicus).
- Y.F. v. State of New Hampshire, No. 15-cv-00510-PB (D.N.H.) (successful challenge to state prison mail policy banning inmates from receiving all original handwritten drawings and pictures in the mail; under settlement, State agreed to allow certain original handwritten drawings and pictures that are done in pen or pencil).
- Appeal of Farmington School District, 168 N.H. 726 (2016) (holding that the Farmington School Board improperly declined to renew a guidance counselor's employment contract after the counselor sought independent legal counsel and successfully obtained a temporary restraining order before the Strafford County Superior Court to protect her student’s right to privacy that was going to be imminently violated by the Farmington High School Principal; as amicus).
- In the Matter of Munson and Beal, 169 N.H. 274 (2016) (a case concerning the fair distribution of property in a divorce between two women who were in a 20+ year committed relationship, and joined in a civil union/married for four of those years, holding that premarital cohabitation can be considered when formulating an equitable distribution of the marital property; as amicus).