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Monday, September 1, 2014


For the last two years I have been involved in an ADA case in Federal court fighting for my Federal disability rights.  In my early days of this legal battle, I initially turned to the Office of the Attorney General thinking that office would be the first to stand up for my rights as a Citizen of the State of Connecticut.  To my surprise, I found that the Office of the Attorney General was on the other side of the aisle acting as Opposing Council for the Connecticut Judicial Branch which had consistently discriminated against me based upon disability.  How could this be?
The stated mission of the Office of the Attorney General, among other things, is as follows:  "to represent and advocate the interests of the state and its citizens as vigorously as possible, to ensure that the state government acts within the letter and spirit of the law...that the quality of life of all our citizens is preserved and enhanced, and that the rights of our most vulnerable citizens are safeguarded." 
Granted such a mission, wouldn't you expect the Office of the Attorney General to be the first out there defending the rights of citizens with disabilities? 
In fact, this is not so.  Out of all the mandates that are in place in regard to what the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General should be doing, the one that takes up the majority of its resources is the mandate to "appear for the state, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary, the Treasurer and the Comptroller, and for all heads of departments and state boards, commissioners, agents, inspectors, committees, auditors, chemists, directors, harbor masters, and institutions and for the State Librarian in all suits and other civil which the state is a party..."  The office is also called to appear for any members of the state legislature who are being sued in regard to their actions in the state legislature. 
In other words, the Office of the Attorney General here in Connecticut is here to protect State government from its own citizens when its actions have been called into question.  

Not only does the Attorney General provide legal representation to State agencies and to the legislature, it also provides detailed analysis of the legal issues these entities face, some of which cannot help but be self serving.  For instance, a carefully written, nine page, single spaced legal opinion  which the AG sent on September 24, 2013 to Commissioner Patricia Reymer of DMHAS conveniently finds justification for P.A. 13-03 and its violations of the privacy rights of people with mental health disabilities who choose to obtain voluntary in-hospital treatment.  If citizen advocates had the same access to such a crackerjack team of highly experienced attorneys, they would certainly achieve considerably more successful results. 
Another interesting charge that the Office of the Attorney General has taken on is that of acting as a Collection Agency in obtaining child support from non-custodial parents.  Thus, the opening pages of the Annual Report FY 2012-2013 for the Office of the Attorney General boasts about the fact that the Office was able to rake in $36,186,195 for the State in Child Support Payments. 
So non-custodial parents in Family Court who find themselves dragged to Court, bullied and their wages garnished, or else thrown into jail, have the Office of the Attorney General to thank. 
These kinds of actions are not true of other Attorney General's Offices in other parts of the Country.  Well, I will agree there are some like Alabama who do this kind of thing.  But when I looked at an equivalent state such as Illinois, this is what the Office of the Attorney General does in Illinois.  I am now looking at the online page for the Office of the Attorney General in Illinois entitled "Defending Your Rights." 
Here we go, "The Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau (it has one!) enforces state and federal civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination in Illinois."  In regard to Disability Rights this page states, "The Disability Rights Bureau (it has one) enforces State and Federal laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities.  The Bureau ensures compliance with laws mandating access to buildings, housing, and services for people with disabilities by investigating and resolving complaints through negotiation and litigation.  In addition, the Disability Rights Bureau provides technical assistance and referrals to individuals with disabilities and public and private entities seeking to comply with disability rights laws." 
So what about New York State.  They also have a Civil Rights Bureau regarding which the online page states the following, "The Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's Office works to promote equal justice under the law and seeks to enforce the civil rights of all New Yorkers.  The Bureau enforces laws that protect all New Yorkers from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, marital status, source of income or disability.  Using federal, state, and local civil rights laws, such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans With Disabilities Act and other landmark laws, the Bureau investigates and prosecutes discrimination in a variety of areas." 
In Pennsylvania, the Office of the Attorney General includes a Civil Rights Enforcement Section.  According to the brochure, "One of the goals of the Office of the Attorney General is to ensure that, as required by law, all Pennsylvanians are treated without regard to race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, religion, holding a General Education Development Certificate (G.E.D.), being disabled, being related to someone who is disabled or having children under the age of 18." 
So Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania are fighting to protect their citizens from discrimination and the violation of their state and federal civil rights, but Connecticut, despite having a very similar mandate, i.e. to make sure that the "rights of our most vulnerable citizens are safeguarded" has simply chosen to renege on that responsibility.  Instead, our Office of the Attorney General uses its approximately 300 employee strong department full of attorneys, paralegals, and administrative assistants to fight Connecticut Citizens who are simply requesting that our State Government and State Agencies act in a manner that respects their Civil, Constitutional, and Human Rights. 
If you add to this the Office of the Claims Commissioner, a highly unusual system which gives a single individual the right to prevent citizens from suing the State of Connecticut for damages, you have a State Government that has most uniquely fortified itself from any responsibility to respect the civil rights of Connecticut citizens or to be held accountable to Connecticut citizens in any meaningful way. 
I know that many of you reading this article will say that you have never had that problem--that you have never been discriminated against, or jailed because of a failure to pay child support, so it doesn't really affect you. 
In fact, if you think this way, you would be wrong.  Connecticut is known as having one of the worst economies in the nation and being the fourth least business friendly State in the Country.  All of us, in some way or another, have been affected by the devastating economic impact of this situation, either through the high cost of living or through unemployment. 
In a recent article, Forbes Magazine pinpointed the reason for our economic problems in the State of Connecticut within our corrupt judicial and political systems. 
Why do we have such corruption? 
We have corruption because our Office of the Attorney General which should be protecting the interests of the Citizens of the State of Connecticut are busily protecting the Connecticut State Government and its State Agencies from any kind of accountability. 
One particularly striking instance of this was the federal case Office of Protection and Advocacy vs. The State of Connecticut where the OPA sued the State to protect the interests of mental health patients under the Olmsted Act.  A similar case already litigated in Illinois indicated that the OPA's position was legally correct as did an Amicus Brief submitted by  the Department of Justice.  Nonetheless, the Office of the Attorney General dragged the Office of Protection and Advocacy through the federal court system for eight years to the tune of thousands and thousands of our taxpayer dollars, rather than simply agree to obey the law.  
The end result is that Connecticut citizens are being denied their rights and we have one of the most corrupt and economically depressed States in the nation.  Why is this happening?  Because the Office of the Attorney General is not doing its job of protecting Connecticut citizens and is instead attacking, cannibalizing, and undermining them.  As citizens of the State of Connecticut, we need to demand that the Office of the Attorney General fulfill its complete mandate to fight for the rights of the citizens in this State.

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