2014 – A Year of Progress

 

 Free Speech Rights

Court Victory

  • The ACLU of NH won a major victory when the state Supreme Court agreed with our argument that a DMV regulation used to deny the vanity license plate “COPSLIE” violated the free speech protections of the New Hampshire Constitution.

Legislative Success

  • The ACLU of NH opposed a bill that would have criminalized whistle blowers for recording animal cruelty in farming practices. The bill, defeated in the House, would have infringed upon the constitutional right against self-incrimination and required every citizen to become a police informant.

Legal Challenges

  • The ACLU of NH filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three voters, including a member of the House of Representatives, challenging a law that, in violation of the First Amendment, bans a person from engaging in innocent political speech through the display of a photograph of a marked ballot on the Internet.
  • The ACLU of NH filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a homeless man challenging the Town of Hudson’s unconstitutional practice of detaining, harassing, threatening, dispersing, and citing peaceful panhandlers in violation of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
  • The ACLU of NH participates in oral argument before the New Hampshire Supreme Court arguing that our clients’ convictions for violating Manchester’s curfew ordinance during the 2012 Occupy Manchester protests violated their free speech rights under the New Hampshire Constitution.
  • The ACLU of NH filed a friend of the court (amicus) brief before the New Hampshire Supreme Court in a case concerning the free speech rights of peaceful speakers to engage public officials in public places.
  • The ACLU of NH filed an amicus brief before the state Supreme Court arguing that a police officer who arrests someone in violation of the law the officer should not escape liability for not knowing the law.

Community Impact

  • The ACLU of NH sent a demand letter to the City of Nashua on behalf of a homeless client who, in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments, was arrested and spent 33 days in jail for walking in a park.
  • After receiving a letter from the ACLU of NH, the Timberlane Regional School Board repealed internal rules banning school board members from talking to the press.
  • One day before trial, the ACLU of NH secured the dismissal of criminal charges against our client who was arrested and prosecuted in Littleton because a parking enforcement official alleged that our client swore at him in public.
  • The city of Rochester repealed its anti-panhandling ordinance after the ACLU of NH sent a letter to the city stating that it violates the free speech rights of the poor and homeless be repealed.

 

Women’s Rights

  • The ACLU of NH testified against a proposed disruptive property ordinance in Concord that would have a detrimental impact on victims of domestic violence, who are disproportionately women.

 

Criminal Justice Rights

Legislative Success

  • The House or Representatives passed a bill, supported by coalition of organizations including the ACLU of NH, repealing the state’s death penalty law.

Legal Challenges

  • The ACLU of NH filed an amicus brief before the state Supreme Court arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment applies retroactively to four New Hampshire juveniles sentenced to life without parole.
  • The ACLU of NH filed a brief before the state Supreme Court arguing that New Hampshire’s retroactive registration requirement for those sex offenders who completed their sentence before the registry went into effect violates the Ex Post Facto and Due Process Clauses of the New Hampshire Constitution.
  • The ACLU of NH filed an amicus brief before the New Hampshire Supreme Court arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court decision-that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment-must apply retroactively to four New Hampshire juveniles sentenced to life without parole.

Government Impact

  • Following the suggestions of the ACLU of NH, the state’s Department of Corrections agreed to not implement a policy that would have allowed inmates in solitary confinement to only obtain mail in the form of postcards, a practice which would have violated the First Amendment.
  • The ACLU of NH proposed changes to state’s Department of Corrections Rules addressing the practice of shackling pregnant inmates.
  • The ACLU of NH advocated for the Department of Corrections to end the shackling of children in juvenile courts.

 

LGBT Rights

Court Victory

  • The state Supreme Court ruled that New Hampshire’s equitable parentage law must apply equally to both fathers and mothers because otherwise the law would treat a child of same-sex parents differently from a child of different-sex parents. The ACLU of NH filed an amicus brief in support of this ruling.

 

Voting Rights

Legal Challenges

  • The ACLU of NH filed a federal ballot access lawsuit on behalf of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire challenging a law that that imposed onerous restrictions on the ability of third parties to gain access to the ballot in future elections.
  • In a voting rights case brought by the ACLU of NH, the state Superior Court issued an order permanently blocking a controversial 2012 law that added language to the state’s voter registration form which would have disenfranchised voters who live in this state.

Court Victory

  • The U.S. Federal court denies New Hampshire’s motion to dismiss the ACLU of NH’s ballot access case filed on behalf of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.

Privacy Rights

Legislative Success

  • The House of Representatives voted down a bill opposed by the ACLU of NH that would have invaded privacy by legalizing police use of license plate readers.

 

Religion & Belief

Legal Challenges

  • The ACLU of NH, along with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU, filed a brief before the state Supreme Court challenging an education tax-credit scheme passed by the New Hampshire legislature that would use public funds to pay for private religious schools.
  • The ACLU of NH participated in oral argument before the state Supreme Court arguing that an education tax-credit scheme passed by the legislature violates the New Hampshire Constitution.

 

Equal Protection / Access to Justice

Court Victory

  • The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in a case supported by the ACLU of NH 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 defense services necessary for an adequate defense.

Community Impact

  • After the ACLU of NH filed an emergency petition, the state Supreme Court delayed enforcement of an order issued by a lower court that would have jailed our client simply for being poor, a practice tantamount to creating  a debtors prison.
  • In another debtors’ prisons case, the ACLU of NH filed with the Superior Court an emergency petition for a writ of habeas corpus and obtained the release of a 22-year-old poor, single mother of two infants jailed for not being able to pay an outstanding fine resulting from a violation-level offense.
  • In yet another debtors’ prisons case, the ACLU of NH secured the release of a poor client who was jailed simply for being unable to pay a court fine.

 

Public Education

  • The ACLU of NH moderated a public forum at Dartmouth College entitled “Students’ Rights: Due Process, Free Speech & Privacy Rights in Educational Institutions.”
  • The ACLU of NH sponsored an event raising awareness on the continuing practice of banning books by schools, libraries, and other institutions.
  • The ACLU of NH sponsored its 28th annual Bill of Rights benefit presenting awards for outstanding service to civil rights to the law firm of Nixon Peabody, LLP & to the Voting Rights Legal Team of Shaheen & Gordon PA, and Alan Cronheim, Esq.
 Posted by on February 4, 2015 at 12:35 pm