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Request To Sue State For Newtown Shooting Has No Basis, Attorney General Says

By AMANDA FALCONE, afalcone@courant.com

The Hartford Courant

11:49 AM EST, January 1, 2013

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The state attorney general, responding to a lawyer's request to sue the state over the Newtown school shooting, said Monday that nothing points to the state's liability in the case.

"Although the investigation is still under way, we are aware of no facts or legal theory under which the State of Connecticut should be liable for causing the harms inflicted at Sandy Hook Elementary School," Attorney General George Jepsen said in a statement released by his office. "Nor does the claim letter filed in this case identify a valid basis to support a claim against the state and, by extension, its taxpayers.""

Jepsen was responding to a request made by New Haven lawyer Irving Pinsky on behalf of an unnamed 6-year-old survivor identified as "Jill Doe." On Thursday, Pinsky filed for permission to sue the state for $100 million with Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr.

On Monday, Pinsky withdrew the request, he said, citing new evidence that he has yet to verify. He retained the right to refile for permission to sue.

The state enjoys sovereign immunity against most lawsuits unless permission to sue is granted.

Twenty students and six women were killed at Sandy Hook Dec. 14. The shooter, Adam Lanza, also shot his mother at their home. Lanza committed suicide as police arrived at the school.

Pinsky's claim says the State Board of Education, the state Department of Education, and the education commissioner failed to take steps to protect the children from foreseeable harm.

While Jepsen said the attorney general's office has a statutory obligation to defend the claim, he said the claims commissioner's office was not the appropriate venue for a discussion about the shooting.

"Our hearts go out to this family, and to all the children and families affected by the Newtown shootings," he said. "They deserve a thoughtful and deliberate examination of the causes of this tragedy and of the appropriate public policy responses."

Also on Monday, the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association's executive officers sent an email to association members about Pinsky's claim.

"CTLA joins with all other citizens in CT in mourning the tragic loss of life in Newtown," it reads. "We believe that the timing and circumstances of this action are ill-advised. We will continue to extend our heartfelt sympathies to the victims of the Newtown tragedy, and we remain committed to joining the efforts of countless individuals in Connecticut and around the country to find ways to assist the victims and families affected by this tragedy."

When read the contents of the letter, Pinsky said he liked the statement but disagreed with the part pertaining to his case.

"For my case, what I'm doing is appropriate," he said.

Pinsky said the family of "Jill Doe" contacted him about legal action. He said he hasn't approached anyone in Newtown about the tragedy.

Whether or not the state allows the lawsuit, the claim has the potential to be a catalyst for change, Pinsky said, explaining that people need to focus on making schools better and safer before another tragedy occurs.