William C. Newman


Bill is a civil rights and civil liberties lawyer.  You can see information about his new book, When the War Came Home, by clicking here.

Bill has served as the Director of the Western Regional Law Office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts since 1987; worked as co-counsel on behalf of a Guantanamo detainee (repatriated relatively early in the Guantanamo litigation process); defended a man on Georgia’s death row (habeas granted, ultimately sentenced to life with the possibility of parole); represented an inmate at Cedar Junction (securing his release notwithstanding the client’s already-imposed sentences of life without parole plus 230 years); and represented the mother in Bezio v. Patenaude (the first Massachusetts gay custody case). For decades, Bill also represented the housekeepers and food service workers union at Smith College and the drivers and mechanics union at Peter Pan Bus Lines, Inc. These cases speak to his commitment.

For over 25 years, Bill has received the highest rating (AV – preeminent) from the Martindale-Hubbell legal directory; has been selected for inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America in the area of Civil Liberties; and has been rated a Massachusetts Super Lawyer in the area of Civil Rights law since the inception of the award over a decade ago.

Civil Liberties minute

For appellate decisions as well as significant trial level cases, honors, teaching experience, and community involvement (which includes his Civil Liberties Minutes™ and his morning radio show), and political-legal work (which includes voter protection work for many campaigns in Massachusetts as well as in 2008 in Florida for the Obama Campaign and 2004 in New Hampshire), please see below.


  • Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, Massachusetts, J.D. – June, 1975.
  • Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, BA – June, 1972.

Bar Memberships

Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1975); United States District Court (D.Mass. 1976), (D. Vt.1995), (D.D.C. 2004); United States Circuit Courts of Appeals for The First Circuit (1981), D.C. Circuit (2005); United States Supreme Court (1980); United States Claims Court (1983).

Member: Massachusetts Bar Association; Massachusetts and National Associations of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Hampshire County Bar Association; National Lawyers Guild.

Board of Directors

  • Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. (Boston, Massachusetts), 2009-2014
  • No More Guantanamos, Northampton, Massachusetts (Advisory Board), 2009-present
  • Rosenberg Fund for Children, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1990-present (Treasurer, 2000-present)
  • Western Massachusetts Legal Services, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1977-2005 (President, 1986-1990)
  • Friends of WFCR (now, the WFCR Foundation), Amherst, Massachusetts, 1997-2006 (Executive Board, 1997-2004; President or Co-President, 2000-2003)
  • Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty, Boston, Massachusetts, 1982-1999, Advisory Board, 1999-present
  • Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Northampton, Massachusetts, Advisory Board, 2001-2008
  • The Yard, Chilmark, Massachusetts, Advisory Board, 1976-present
  • Amherst Writers and Artists Press, Inc., Amherst, Massachusetts, 1999-2003
  • Center for Public Representation, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1982-1999
  • Community Homes for Children, Easthampton, Massachusetts, 1978-1983
  • Hampshire Council for Children, 1978-1980 (President, 1979-1980)

Bar and Other Activities


Smith College School for Social Work, Adjunct Faculty, Social Justice & The Law (2008-2009); Panelist, Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (M.C.L.E.) Municipal Law Conference (2007); Guest Teacher/Lecturer for classes at Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, University of Massachusetts, Hampshire College, Harvard; Greenfield, Springfield Technical and Holyoke Community Colleges, Elms College, Northeastern, Suffolk University and Western New England College Schools of Law, and area high schools and religious institutions; M.C.A.D.; and at various conferences on the First Amendment, the death penalty, anti-discrimination laws, and other topics. Panelist on judicial, legislative and executive response to 09/11/01, for the Boston Bar Association (June 2002), City Solicitors and Town Counsel Association (August 2002), Massachusetts Bar Association Annual Meeting on Judicial Response to 09/11/01 (January 2002), Northampton “Town Meeting” (February 2002), and World Fellowship Center (July 2002). Instructor at M.C.L.E. courses on Discrimination, Labor Law, Advocacy in Criminal Sentencing (1990), the First Amendment in the Classroom (1988), Harvard Law School week-long trial practice course (1987); University of Massachusetts Labor Relations and Research Center (arbitration trainings for union stewards) (various dates); Moderator, symposium on Juveniles in Court (1980); Panelist, Lawyers Symposium on District Court practice (1981); Adjunct Professor, Western New England College School of Law, Prisoners Clinic (Summers, 1981-82).


  • When the War Came Home, Levellers Press (2014)
  • Writer and voice of “Civil Liberties Minute” (2009-present), www.aclum.org/podcasts
  • The Bill Newman Show (formerly The 9:00 o’clock Show with Bill Newman) available at http://WHMP.com/pages/8875192.php
  • Columnist, Daily Hampshire Gazette 1994-2003, 2013-present
  • Commentator, WFCR Morning Edition, 1996-1999
  • Legal Columnist for The Valley Advocate and Fresh Ink, 1979-1981
  • Massachusetts Review XXXVI, No. 2 (poetry) (summer, 1995) and XXXVII, No. 1 (spring, 1996) (“Marionizing Massachusetts”) (essay)
  • Hampshire Life, October 22, 2004 (on Alaska) and April 28, 1995 (on Kent State); Hampshire Life “First Person,” February 11, 2000 (co-author with Leah Newman)
  • MBA Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section News, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1995) and Vol. 8, No. 2 (1996) (book reviews)
  • Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, June 7, 1996 (book review); Peregrine (1996 edition) (fiction)
  • Security Systems News, Vol. 1, No. 1 (on electronic surveillance)
  • Columns in Sunday Springfield Republican on various civil liberties and civil rights topics, including habeas corpus and Guantanamo detainees
  • Contributor to Heart, Hoof & Soul (anthology of stories on children and horses) (Syncopated Press, 1999).


Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer review rating (AV-Preeminent); Boston Magazine Massachusetts Super Lawyer designation in the field of civil rights law, 2004 – present; Boston Bar Association President’s Award (2007); Southern Center for Human Rights, Human Rights Award (2007); National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA) Beacon of Justice Award (2007); Special Recognition, Western Massachusetts Legal Services, (2006) (recognition for over 25 years of service on Board of Directors); Committee for Public Counsel Services Thurgood Marshall Award (2005); Northampton Center for Children and Families Ellen Sedlis Good Work Award (2001); Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty, Special Recognition for achieving post-conviction relief in Georgia death penalty case (1992); Massachusetts Bar Association Community Service Award (1988); Martindale-Hubbell rating: AV; Reproductive Freedom Award from the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts, Massachusetts NARAL/Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Tapestry Health Systems, Inc.

Bar Activities

Massachusetts Bar Association, Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section Council, (Co-Editor, Section News) 1994-1996; Criminal Justice Section Council, 1988-1990; Comprehensive IOLTA Petition Committee, 1988; United Way of Hampshire County, Lawyers Committee, Co-Chairman, 1988-1989.

Other Positions Held

  • Adjunct Election Officer, New England Region, for Federal Election Officer in United States v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters (S.D.N.Y.) (1990-1992)
  • Special Attorney General for Lead Paint Poisoning Prosecutions in Hampshire and Franklin Counties (1987-1989)
  • Associate Field Counsel, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (1977-1979)
  • Approved Care and Protection investigator, Northampton District Court (1978-1986)

Appellate and Reported Decisions

  • Commonwealth v. Selavka, 469 Mass. __ (2014) (mandatory conditions of probation, double jeopardy)
  • Commonwealth v. Dery, 452 Mass. 823 (2008) (defendant’s right to waive constitutionally guaranteed minimum number of jurors) (amicus brief with Attorney Carlo Obligato);
  • O’Callaghan v. Shirazi, 204 Fed. Appx. 35 (1st Cir. 2006) (per curiam), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 66 (affirmance of district court judgment) (Harvey Weiner, Peabody & Arnold, as lead counsel);
  • Town of Greenfield and Salary Schedule Employees Association, 32 M.L.C. 133, 32 M.L.R.R. 19 (2006) (unfair labor practices, unilateral employer action);
  • Lavallee v. Justices In The Hampden Superior Court, 442 Mass. 228 (2004) (indigent defendants right to representation) (with Attorneys David Hoose, William Leahy, Benjamin Keehn and John Reinstein);
  • Commonwealth v. Carkhuff, 441 Mass. 122 (2004) (search and seizure based on post 9/11 warning) (with Attorneys John Reinstein and Ryan Alekman);
  • Demarest v. Athol-Orange Community Television, 188 F.Supp.2d 82 (D.Mass. 2002) (First Amendment rights of citizen-producers on cable access stations) (with Attorney Harris Freeman);
  • Messing Rudavsky & Weliky v. Harvard, 436 Mass. 347 (2002) (ethical rules, right of attorney to interview corporate witnesses) (amicus brief with Attorney Sarah Wunsch);
  • Rotkiewicz v. Sadowsky, 431 Mass. 748 (2000) (police officer a public figure in defamation law) (amicus brief with Attorneys Carol Rose and Robert Bertsche);
  • Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, 430 Mass. 577 (2000) (drug interdiction roadblock under Massachusetts Constitution) (amicus brief with Attorney Carol Donovan);
  • Commonwealth v. Contache, 47 Mass.App.Ct. 247 (1999) (summary contempt finding overturned) (amicus brief with Attorney Sandra Staub);
  • Barbaro v. Wroblewski, 44 Mass.App.Ct. 269 (1998) (affirmation of special permit, site plan authorizations, hearing requirements) (with Attorney Alan Seewald);
  • Commonwealth v. Pyles, 423 Mass. 717 (1996) (District Court criminal dispositions) (amicus brief with Attorney Daniel Bronstein); Commonwealth v. Norrell, 423 Mass. 725 (1996) (companion case);
  • Pyle v. School Committee of South Hadley, 423 Mass. 283 (1996); previously reported at 55 F.3d 20 (1st Cir. 1995), 861 F.Supp. 157 (D.Mass. 1994)* and 824 F.Supp. 7 (D.Mass. 1993) (students’ free speech rights affirmed) (with Attorney John Reinstein);
  • Jones v. Rowe, 33 Mass.App.Ct. 660 (1992) (for unmarried parents, mother has equal rights to name the child) (with Attorney Sarah Wunsch);
  • Congel v. Scotto’s Massachusetts Restaurant Corp., (Rule 1:28, unreported decision), 33 Mass.App.Ct. 1109 (1992) (Summary reversal for tenant/client Scotto’s on ground of issue preclusion);
  • United States v. Levasseur, 704 F.Supp. 1158 (D.Mass. 1989) (jury issues, suppression orders) reported at 826 F.2d 159 (1st Cir. 1987) (affirmance of District Court discovery order) (with various co-counsel);
  • Tauber v. Longmeadow, 695 F.Supp. 1358 (D.Mass. 1988) (political signs in residential areas) (with Attorney Alan Katz);
  • Commonwealth v. Leonard, 401 Mass. 470 (1988) (corroboration requirement for a defendant’s admission as basis of conviction) (with Attorney Steven Schlang);
  • Kennedy v. Kennedy, 400 Mass. 272 (1987) (Kennedy IV) (attorneys fees, other domestic relations issues) (with Attorney Jonathan Shapiro), previously reported at 23 Mass.App.Ct. 176 (1987);
  • Kennedy v. Kennedy, 20 Mass.App.Ct. 559 (1985) (Kennedy III) (domestic relations issues);
  • Commonwealth v. Yelle, 19 Mass.App.Ct. 465 (1985) (relevancy objections, cautionary instructions);
  • DiLuzio v. United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, Local 274, 391 Mass. 211 (1984) (pro hac vice admission) (with Attorneys Leonard Polletta and Wendy Sibbison);
  • Kennedy v. Kennedy, 17 Mass.App.Ct. 308 (1983) (Kennedy II) (divorce issues) (with Attorney Wendy Sibbison); see also Kennedy v. Kennedy, 10 Mass.App.Ct. 113 (1980) (Kennedy I*);
  • Brewster v. Dukakis, 544 F.Supp. 1069 (D.Mass. 1982) (attorneys’ fees on Northampton State Hospital deinstitutionalization suit) (with Attorneys Steven Schwartz (as lead counsel) and others);
  • Commonwealth v. Brugmann, 13 Mass.App.Ct. 373 (1982) (convictions and fines upheld but necessity defense recognized in Massachusetts) (with Attorney Thomas Lesser);
  • Bezio v. Patenaude, 381 Mass. 563 (1980) (sexual orientation, burden of proof) (with Attorney Wendy Sibbison);
  • Commonwealth v. Bastarache, 382 Mass. 86 (1980) (jury composition challenge), previously reported at 10 Mass.App. Ct. 499 (1980) (with Attorney Thomas Lesser);

Significant Trial Level Cases

Homicide Cases

  • Death Penalty: Blanks v. Zant, federal habeas relief granted on sentencing phase, sentence of life with possibility of parole eligibility imposed (with Attorneys Bryan Stevenson, Terry Jackson, and Stewart Eisenberg).
  • First Degree Murders (eight): one not guilty by reason of insanity; five manslaughters, two with House of Correction sentences, another sentenced to time served after Motion for a New Trial granted; two second degree (one with Attorney David Hoose).
  • Juvenile Murders (two): Commonwealth’s Motion for Transfer to Superior Court on first degree murder charge denied in both cases and resolved in juvenile court (both with Attorney Thomas Lesser).
  • Manslaughter: Bastarache see Commonwealth v. Bastarache, (with Attorney Thomas Lesser), conviction reversed, plea to House of Corrections sentence.
  • Vehicular Homicides (District Court) (six): one – no complaint issued after show cause hearing; one – not guilty (jury trial); one – continued without a finding and dismissed; one – thirty day direct sentence; one – sentence of two days direct, balance suspended (with Attorney Thomas Lesser); Commonwealth v. Babb, 389 Mass. 275 (1983) – six mos. direct (concurrent with time served after Commonwealth appeal).

Other Criminal

  • Commonwealth v. Jason Vassell, ACLUM amicus representation on racially discriminatory selective prosecution (with Attorneys John Reinstein, David Hoose and Luke Ryan).
  • United States v. Levasseur, multi-defendant seditious conspiracy and RICO charges – 11 month trial with acquittals on seditious conspiracy and substantive RICO and later dismissal of RICO conspiracy count (with Attorney Elizabeth Fink and other attorneys).
  • Trial level representation of defendants in numerous civil disobedience actions.


  • Holyoke City Council v. Mayor Alex Morse, et al, Hampden Superior No. 12-837, successful defense at preliminary injunction stage of Needle Exchange Program in Holyoke on behalf of Tapestry Health Systems, Inc. (with Attorney Michael Aleo).
  • Al-Shihry v. Bush (D.D.C. and D.C.Cir.) (2005) Guantanamo detainee litigation. repatriated. (with Attorney Stewart Eisenberg).
  • Kohn v. Barker, Middlesex Superior No. 01-5364E declaratory relief against State Department of Education for cancelling educator Alfie Kohn’s presentation at an education conference (with Attorneys Michael Rader and Michael Albert (as lead counsel) and Sarah R. Wunsch).
  • Fine v. Sullivan and City of Westfield, N. 98-030206 MAP (D. Mass (2006). Cable television prohibition against political and religious speech ruled unconstitutional; injunction issued (with Attorney Harris Freeman).
  • Berkshire Power Development, Inc. v. The Concerned Citizens and Businesses of Agawam, (Hampden Superior No. 97-962) successful Motion to Dismiss on Anti-SLAPP Statute.
  • Dulude v. Amherst School Committee: No.96-30077-MAP (D. Mass)(1996) successful opposition to attempt to prevent School Committee from displaying photographic exhibit, “Love Makes a Family,” Representation of intervenor parents and students (with Attorney Mary Bonauto) (GLAD).
  • Stone v. Tudryn: No. 91-3012F (D. Mass 1991) Preliminary injunction on First Amendment
    associational grounds, allowing high school student to take her date to high school prom despite trespass notice.
  • Wing v. Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, (No. 89E 0033367) (Hampshire Probate and Family Court (1989) (affirmed by Single Justice of Appeals Court) Injunction against MIAA which allowed high school soccer team with a girl on the team to compete in state-wide boys tournament (with Attorney (later Judge) W. Michael Ryan).
  • Brewster v. Dukakis, No.76-0423-F (D. Mass 1976) de-institutionalization Northampton State Hospital resolved by consent degree with mandated creation of comprehensive system of less restrictive mental health services (lead counsel – Stephen Schwartz).