‘Jane Doe’ lottery privacy case on tap

Anticipation rising ahead of Tuesday’s court hearing

NASHUA – As a Superior Court judge prepares to hear arguments Tuesday morning on whether the mystery $566 million Powerball winner should be able to remain anonymous for “the safety of her and her family,” her lawyers and the state Lottery Commission’s attorney have filed 11th-hour motions pleading their respective cases.

The hearing, at which “Jane Doe’s” attorney will seek injunctive relief on behalf of his client, is scheduled to begin at 10:30 Tuesday morning in Hillsborough County Superior Court South.

Citing the “worldwide attention” that he says the case has generated, Manchester Attorney Steven Gordon predicted in a 36-page brief filed Monday that if his client’s identity is made public, “she will be flooded with emails, phone calls and in-person” requests for money.

“The sheer size of her winnings are certain to attract unwanted and malicious attention,” Gordon wrote. “People will descend with their hands out, (with) the expectation that Ms. Doe should share her winnings.”

But Assistant Attorney General John J. Conforti, who is representing the state Lottery Commission, filed a 12-page response on Monday, which included a motion to dismiss the case.

The commission’s position, Conforti wrote, is that lottery winners’ name and town of residence become public record at the time they present their signed ticket and collect their winnings.

If someone were to then file a so-called right-to-known request seeking the winner’s name and town, the commission “believes it is legally obligated to release” the information “pursuant to RSA 91-A,” which is the statute governing the right-to-know law.

Gordon, however, argues that his client is not challenging the right-to-know law, but whether her name and town should be exempt from disclosure since the winnings could be claimed by a trust.

He referred to the rule that allows lottery winners to sign tickets in the name of a trust, in which case only the trust’s name and its trustee, not the individual winner’s name, would become public.

Gordon also cited his earlier proposal to the commission that his client, under the circumstances, be allowed to “white-out” her name and replace it with the name of a trust.

What Gordon meant by “under the circumstances” is his earlier reference to the “big mistake” his client made by signing the ticket before retaining counsel.

He also pointed out that Doe was simply following the Lottery Commission’s instructions posted on its Website.

But the commission rejected the “white-out” suggestion, saying the ticket would then be considered altered and rendered invalid.

As for the commission stating its need to comply with any right-to-know requests that might be filed, Gordon argued that the right-to-know law does allow exemptions of material “whose disclosure would constitute an invasion of privacy.”

The commission argues in its response, however, that the winner’s “desire for normalcy and anonymity is substantially outweighed by the public’s right to transparency in the operation of lottery games.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.