NH Supreme Court issues ruling, in victory for government transparency
CONCORD, N.H. - In a victory for government and law enforcement transparency, the New Hampshire Supreme Court today issued a decision that will require the disclosure of police misconduct records regarding former state trooper Haden Wilber under the state’s “Right-to-Know” Law. This is the fourth case filed since 2020 by the ACLU of New Hampshire in which the New Hampshire Supreme Court has concluded that certain police conduct information cannot be categorically kept secret from the public.
According to the now-settled 2019 lawsuit filed against Mr. Wilber arising out of a February 2017 traffic stop, Wilber allegedly fabricated a crime, which led a woman he pulled over to spend 13 days in jail—during which time she was subjected to body scans and an invasive cavity examination because of Wilber’s false assertions.
“Today’s decision is a victory for government transparency. When an individual becomes a law enforcement officer, that individual should expect that their conduct will be subject to greater scrutiny because that is the nature of the job–scrutiny that the Court once again affirmed today,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “In this case, both the state police – New Hampshire’s largest police force – and the Attorney General’s Office took the astounding position that disciplinary records in a terminated state trooper’s personnel file should never see the light of day and should never be seen by the taxpayers that fund their operations. Had this troubling position been adopted by the Court, New Hampshire would have entered a dark age of secrecy with respect to police misconduct.”
The centerpoint of the case at the New Hampshire Supreme Court was whether, in response to a Right-to-Know request, certain police misconduct personnel files could be categorically withheld from the public under a different and separate criminal discovery statute (RSA 105:13-b). The ACLU of New Hampshire maintained that this separate criminal statute (RSA 105:13-b) did not prevent disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law and therefore did not require the categorical withholding of this important information, with which the Court agreed.
Former state trooper Wilber was discharged from the New Hampshire State Police in August 2021. He had been placed on the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule (also known as the “Laurie List”) due to credibility issues, and his alleged conduct in this February 2017 stop led to $212,500 of taxpayer funds being used to settle the 2019 federal lawsuit alleging that the trooper fabricated evidence.
The ACLU-NH case page for this lawsuit can be found here: https://www.aclu-nh.org/en/cases/aclu-nh-v-new-hampshire-state-police