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On September 19, the Quinnipiac Jewish Law Society hosted Rabbi and attorney Judah Harris of the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office in the Faculty Commons. His talk on “The Relevancy of the Torah to the Practice of Law in the Attorney General’s Office” showed how it has been possible for him to integrate his religion with the legal profession. As an additional bonus, those in attendance enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at vice-presidential hopeful Senator Joe Lieberman because Rabbi Harris began working in the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office over twelve years ago while Senator Lieberman was Connecticut’s Attorney General. Rabbi Harris explained how Senator Lieberman transformed the office of the Attorney General during his six years in office. Formerly, as in many other states, the Attorney General’s work involved mainly defending the state and its agencies in actions brought against them. Senator Lieberman enlarged that role, making the office more proactive, as provided in the Attorney General’s mission statement, so that the Attorney General would not only defend the State, but would also actively represent the interests of the people of the State of Connecticut. Senator Lieberman chose his battles in consonance with the ethics and values he has learned from the Torah (the Bible and related rabbinical writings), Rabbi Harris said. For instance, the Torah commands respect for the elderly, such as giving up one’s seat on the bus for an elderly person. The Attorney General provides information to senior citizens through “Consumer University,” a program that provides information about consumer rights and publishes The Senior Advocate, a monthly newsletter for senior citizens, now in a Spanish-language version as well. The state legislature has enacted a Home Improvement Guaranty Fund for consumers who are victims of violations of the Home Improvement Act. Senator Lieberman may very well have conceived that idea as an elaboration of the Torah dictum to build a fence around a flat roof to prevent falls, Rabbi Harris said. The Torah also commands that a seller keep accurate weights, Rabbi Harris said. Senator Lieberman extrapolated from that many consumer protection laws and the idea of representation for cheated consumers. According to Rabbi Harris, recent suits against Publisher’s Clearing House and various telemarketing companies are examples of this important principle. Senator Lieberman was one of the original proponents of suing the tobacco companies. Thanks to the assiduous efforts of the current Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, over the next twenty-five years, Connecticut will be collecting five and a half billion dollars in tobacco industry restitution. Senator Lieberman had been particularly inflamed (pun intended) by the Joe Camel advertisements which targeted young people. Rabbi Harris remembered an Old Gold advertisement, which touted “Most doctors smoke Old Gold” for its relaxation benefits. In contrast, Rabbi Harris noted, the Torah commands that one should not put a stumbling block before the blind, that is, take advantage of people’s weaknesses and susceptibility. Rabbi Harris cited that the Torah prohibits fruit-bearing trees be cut down even during a siege in order to allow for the perpetuation of agriculture. From this dictum, we can learn the importance of preserving the environment, Rabbi Harris said. The Torah commands loans be forgiven every seven years. Bankruptcy laws provide similarly, Rabbi Harris said. Tithing is also a biblical command (i.e. giving 10 percent of one’s income to the poor). According to Rabbi Harris, taxation sometimes works in a similar fashion. Rabbi Harris also explained that the Torah command to show love and consideration to the orphan, the widow and the helpless is reflected in the mission of the Child Support Department which sues parents to enforce child support agreements on behalf of the welfare department. Another example following this tenet of the Torah is that any worker whose wages are withheld unfairly by his employer and who cannot afford a lawyer, can request the Attorney General to sue his employer on his behalf. After describing many other examples of consonance between the Torah’s values and the mission of the Attorney General, Rabbi Harris concluded with some facts and figures. The Attorney General’s staff has almost tripled in the past eighteen years since the time when Senator Lieberman was elected Attorney General. But, said Rabbi Harris, not to worry: Even without figuring in the tobacco restitution monies, the Attorney General collects almost four dollars for every dollar it spends. Rabbi Harris recounted a particularly worthy anecdote about Senator Lieberman. When Senator Lieberman first began his career as Senator, he was required to attend a swearing-in ceremony, which took place Friday night. Because the Sabbath begins at sundown, and because Orthodox Jews do not use electricity or travel by car, Senator Lieberman began walking home after the ceremony. Then fellow Senator Al Gore drove by and warned him that it was not safe to walk through that neighborhood at night. After Senator Lieberman explained why he could not accept a ride, Gore offered the use of his Senate office to Lieberman for the night. As a senior member of the Senate, Senator Gore’s office had finer accoutrements than the office of newly-elected Senator Lieberman, such as a bed and shower. From that time on, Senators Lieberman and Gore became friends, according to Rabbi Harris.

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