Court orders release of names of police officers who committed ‘sustained misconduct’

  • Department of Justice Solicitor Daniel Will speaks during a motion to dismiss hearing at Hillsborough County Superior Court South on Thursday, October 18, 2018. The ACLU-NH and several media outlets are petitioning the state's DOJ to release an unredacted Exculpatory Evidence Schedule. Dean Shalhoup

  • Attorneys Gregory Sullivan (left) and William Chapman listen during a motion to dismiss hearing at Hillsborough County Superior Court South on Thursday, October 18, 2018. The ACLU-NH and several media outlets are petitioning the state's Department of Justice to release an unredacted Exculpatory Evidence Schedule. Dean Shalhoup

  • A selection of the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule, or Laurie List, that the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office says can be publicly released. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 4/24/2019 1:26:57 PM

A Superior Court judge has agreed with media outlets including the Monitor that the state must release a list of roughly 250 New Hampshire police officers who have engaged in serious misconduct.

The court ruling, issued Wednesday, dismissed a motion by the Department of Justice to not release what was known as the Laurie List, now called the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule.

The list names officers who have engaged in conduct such as lying in court, falsifying evidence or using excessive force. The DOJ has always kept it secret, arguing that is an internal document and a personnel file, both of which are shielded from the state’s Right-to-Know law.

In his ruling Wednesday, Judge Charles Temple ruled that it met neither criteria based on various legal details, such as the fact that officers “do not share an employer-employee relationship with the (Department of Justice), and the Laurie List has obtained a sort of grandfathered status apart from the Right-to-Know law.

“The (Department of Justice) argues the court should defer to its interpretation ... because it has independently interpreted the statue for approximately 15 years to mean that the EES/Laurie List is confidential,” Judge Temple wrote. “The court disagrees that the

DOJ is entitled to such deference.”

In a statement released Wednesday, New Hampshire Solicitor General Daniel Will said the Department of Justice is “reviewing the order” and will decide how to respond.

“With its order today, the court denied the motion to dismiss. The court did not order the immediate production of an unredacted EES. The Court’s order is not a final order in the case and, therefore, is not subject to immediate appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court,” he wrote.

“We are reviewing the order. We will make a determination about next steps consistent with court procedure.”

The list, named after a 1995 state Supreme Court decision, includes the department an officer works for and, in most cases, the dates and nature of the offenses. As of Nov. 15, the list included 249 officers in local and state law enforcement agencies. It was designed as a way for prosecutors to let defendants know when an officer in a case has credibility issues.

Created in 2004, it was maintained by the state’s various counties for years until the attorney general’s office took it over in 2017.

A bill (HB 153) passed by the House and awaiting a hearing in the Senate would make these records public once the police officer was found guilty of the behavior.

The Justice Department’s decision to keep the list secret was opposed by five New Hampshire newspaper firms including New England Newspapers, which owns the Monitor, and the independent INDepthNH.com, as well as the ACLU and the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism. The case was argued in a Feb. 25 hearing.

Giles Bissonnette of the New Hampshire ACLU, who argued the case in court, said of the matter: “Without transparency, the public is left unaware of which officers in their towns have had issues concerning their truthfulness or credibility. Secrecy also means that defense lawyers have no way to verify whether state prosecutors are properly disclosing to defendants in criminal cases when a testifying officer has a credibility issue.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)


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