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 racial justice, 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. He has been with the ACLU since 2013.
Gilles is the 2022 recipient of the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications' First Amendment Award. He is also the 2022 recipient of the New Hampshire Bar Association's Distinguished Service to the Public Award. 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, Gilles was a civil litigator in Boston at the law firms of Choate Hall & Stewart LLP, Todd & Weld LLP, and Cooley LLP. He clerked for Judge Thomas M. Golden of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law in 2007 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 and 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 was a 2022 faculty member for the New England First Amendment Institute. He is on the Advisory Board to the New Hampshire Judicial Branch's Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee. 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 a trustee of the New Hampshire Supreme Court Society. He lives in Concord and is a very occasional CrossFit coach.
Representative cases litigated by his legal team include the following:
- Local 8027, Mejia, Philibotte, et al. v. Edelblut, No. 21-cv-1077-PB, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5593 (D.N.H. Jan. 12, 2023) (holding that the banned concepts amendments' "vague terminology, their lack of a scienter requirement, and the possibility that teachers could be found liable for teaching a banned concept by implication, leave both teachers and enforcers to guess at what speech the amendments prohibit"; "Given the severe consequences that teachers face if they are found to have taught or advocated a banned concept, plaintiffs have pleaded a plausible claim that the amendments are unconstitutionally vague.").
- State v. Jones, 172 N.H. 774 (2020) (holding 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 New Hampshire Constitution; as amicus).
- 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).
- Norelli v. N.H. Sec. of State, 175 N.H. 186 (2022) (holding that current 2010 congressional maps cannot be used after the 2020 census for upcoming congressional elections, and concluding that the "least change" approach should apply in the event of an impasse; as amicus).
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).
- Pineda-Landaverde v. City of Manchester, No. 1:20-cv-00319-LM (D.N.H.) (secured $20,000 settlement in lawsuit alleging that the Manchester Police Department, in violation of the Constitution, forcibly seized the smartphone of an ACLU-NH client without a warrant after he was recording the Department’s officers).
- 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, 561 F. Supp. 3d 93 (D.N.H. 2021 (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).
- Hernandez-Lara v. Lyons, 10 F.4th 19 (1st Cir. 2021) (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 justifying detention has to be on the government by a preponderance of the 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).
- Rivera-Medrano v. Garland, 47 F.4th 29 (1st Cir. 2022) (holding that the BIA abused its discretion in failing to remand an immigration proceeding to an immigration judge where the BIA did not meaningfully consider the potentially material impact of new evidence -- namely, a psychological assessment report -- presented by the traumatized asylum seeker or provide a reasoned explanation as to why such new evidence would not have changed the outcome).
Chavez v. Garland, 51 F.4th 424 (1st Cir. 2022) (in granting part of petition for review, holding in an asylum case that “we are compelled to reject as impermissible [the BIA’s 2008 Matter of E-A-G-, 24 I&N Dec. 591 (BIA 2008)] holding that a group made up of those who are incorrectly perceived to be members of a gang is categorically barred from recognition as a particular social group under the INA,” and noting that “the reasons for finding that actual members of a gang are barred from recognition [in seeking asylum] simply ‘do not apply’ to those incorrectly perceived to be gang members”).
H.H. v. Garland, 51 F.4th 8 (1st Cir. 2022) (granting petition for review in a case brought under the Convention Against Torture where the Immigration Judge “applied the incorrect legal standard in assessing whether [the petitioner] would more likely than not be tortured with the ‘consent or acquiescence’ of the Honduran government, and that the BIA erred in its review of the [Immigration Judge’s] decision”; holding that “the ‘willful acceptance’ standard set forth in [the BIA’s 2000 precedent] is inconsistent with the text of the [Convention Against Torture], as well as the clear intent of Congress, and is not required to establish acquiescence to torture,” and concluding that “a showing of willful acceptance is not necessary to establish ‘acquiescence’ to torture under the” Convention Against Torture).
- Barros v. Garland, 31 F.4th 51 (1st Cir. 2022) (limiting the scope of Meng Hua Wan v. Holder, 776 F.3d 52 (1st Cir. 2015) to cases where "the BIA makes findings of disputed issues of fact concerning legal claims that the IJ did not consider in the first instance," and holding that an immigrant need not file a motion to reconsider before the BIA to exhaust a claim that the BIA failed to apply the clear error review standard in reversing the IJ's factual findings; as amicus).
- 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. Garland, 22 F.4th 240 (1st Cir. 2021) (affirming district court's declaration that noncitizens "detained pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1226(a) are entitled to receive a bond hearing at which the Government must prove the alien is either dangerous by clear and convincing evidence or a risk of flight by a preponderance of the evidence"; ACLU of Massachusetts lead 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, 3 F.4th 10 (1st Cir. 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").
- Adeyanju v. Garland, 27 F.4th 25 (1st Cir. 2022) (granting petition for review, in part, where the BIA "failed to adequately employ clear-error review and thus committed legal error" with respect to two conclusions made by BIA).
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
- Paine v. Ride-Away, Inc., 174 N.H. 757 (2022) (holding that the use of therapeutic cannabis prescribed in accordance with New Hampshire's therapeutic cannabis statute can be a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability under New Hampshire's Law Against Discrimination; as amicus).
- 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), aff'd, 16 F.4th 894 (1st. Cir. 2021).
- Doe v. Commissioner, 174 N.H. 239 (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 of New Hampshire v. Brawley, 171 N.H. 333 (2018) (holding 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; as amicus).
- 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/GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
- Provenza v. Town of Canaan, 175 N.H. 121 (2022) (holding that an internal report commissioned by a police department investigating an allegation of excessive force should be released to the public, in part, because "[t]he public has a substantial interest in information about what its government is up to, as well as in knowing whether a government investigation is comprehensive and accurate").
- Union Leader Corp. and ACLU-NH v. Town of Salem, 173 N.H. 345 (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 (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).
- ACLU-NH v. N.H. State Police, No. 217-2022-cv-00112 (Merrimack Cty. Super. Ct. May 3, 2022) (ordering disclosure of misconduct records concerning a terminated state trooper because "the public has a very strong and compelling interest in knowing whether [the trooper's] personnel file documents any misconduct prior to the filing of [the victim's] lawsuit," and "the public will gain insight into the State Police's practices and effectiveness in supervising its officers and employees").
- John Does v. City of Manchester, No. 216-2022-CV-00508 (Hillsborough Cty. Super. Ct., N. Dist., Jan. 26, 2023) (ordering disclosure of supervisors' names who saw racist text from a fellow officer and did nothing on the ground that "[w]hether the supervisors’ inaction in response to [the] text constitutes acceptance or tacit support of racist or 'grossly inappropriate and racially insensitive' behavior, or is emblematic of systemic racism within the Manchester Police Department, is a matter fit for public discourse").
- Stone v. City of Claremont, No. 220-2020-cv-00143 (Sullivan Cty. Super. Ct. Oct. 7, 2022) (ordering disclosure of disciplinary records concerning former Claremont police officer).
- 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).
- John Doe v. N.H. Attorney General, No. 2020-0447, 2022 N.H. LEXIS 90 (N.H. Sup. Ct. July 21, 2022) (holding that RSA 105:13-b does not provide protections to police officers "outside the scope of a particular criminal case"; as amicus).
- 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.) (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).