Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan says the attorney general needs to focus more on making sure Vermont’s laws will stand up in court.
Donovan is hoping to replace incumbent Attorney General Bill Sorrell in the Democratic primary in August.
Donovan says that as attorney general he’d be more involved in legislative business than his predecessor, helping to shape laws before they’re passed so that they’re easier to defend against lawsuits. Vermont laws have not stood up to lawsuits in two recent high-profile federal cases, related to campaign finance and Vermont Yankee, respectively.
"I don’t think it’s good government to put out taxpayer dollars in legal fees on cases that we know are not going to pass constitutional muster," Donovan said in an interview on Vermont Edition. "Be involved early, do the work up front and get the law passed that’s going to stand up in the court of law. It may not be the best bill; it may not be what everybody wants. But progress often comes in increments.
Donovan says he agrees with the state’s position that Vermont Yankee should be decommissioned. And he would continue pursuing the court appeal Attorney General Sorrell has filed. But he would make some changes in big court cases moving forward. "Let’s bring in the experts earlier, rather than later. I know Bill has retained a Washington, D.C., lawyer on appeal. I think we probably should have brought in that lawyer earlier."
Donovan’s current role as Chittenden County State’s Attorney means he’s in charge of the busiest county prosecutor’s office in the state, and Donovan says that perspective has led him to rank prescription drug abuse as one of the top issues in his campaign. "It’s driving the crime. People are dying as a result of it. The Attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer. Silence is not an option."
If elected, Donovan says he’d implement a "Good Samaritan law" to allow people addicted to prescription drugs to seek treatment without fear of prosecution. And he’d increase scrutiny on violent criminals and those high up in the drug trade. Donovan faces incumbent Bill Sorrell in the Democratic primary in August.