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EDITORIAL

Lawyer's Claim Over Newtown Wrong On Every Level

New Haven lawyer's effort to sue the state was ill-conceived

5:03 PM EST, January 3, 2013

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The only good thing that can be said about New Haven attorney Irving Pinsky's move to sue the state for $100 million over the Newtown shootings is that he backed off it. It was inappropriate at every level.

Last week, with the memorial services for the 26 women and children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 barely over, Mr. Pinsky filed a request with the State Claims Commissioner for permission to sue the state for $100 million on behalf of a 6-year-old student who survived the shootings, saying the child was traumatized. The state enjoys immunity from most lawsuits unless it grants permission to sue.

Mr. Pinsky claimed that state education officials failed to protect his client "from foreseeable harm."

The request triggered a storm of protest, including, Mr. Pinsky says, death threats against him. This week Mr. Pinsky withdrew the claim. He said in a telephone interview that he backed off because the matter had "unsettled the community — I felt bad so many people were upset." He couldn't have predicted that?

"I didn't do anything to offend anybody," he said.

He also said he pulled the claim back because he received new evidence, which he would not disclose, and needed to evaluate it.

Mr. Pinsky, a personal injury lawyer, said he was not motivated by the welter of publicity he generated, or the eight-figure fee he might receive (in theory). He said he wanted to make schools safer, and make state officials aware of their responsibility in this area. If those indeed are his goals, the courts most likely are not the best place to realize them.

Unless he knows something that hundreds of others have missed, there is very little chance of this action going forward. To find state officials responsible for Newtown is to say the state is responsible for everything that goes wrong. As "A Connecticut Law Blog" asked, what if everyone who watched the planes strike the World Trade Center on television had a cause of action?

Threats against Mr. Pinsky are of course inappropriate and potentially criminal, but criticism is not. The Newtown situation is difficult enough as it is.