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Chris Mattei, Connecticut attorney general candidate. Chris Mattei, Connecticut attorney general candidate. Courtesy photo

Editor’s Note: This question-and-answer interview with Democratic attorney general candidate Chris Mattei is the second in a series of profiles of the five candidates vying for the job.

Trial attorney and former Connecticut Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei has his work cut out for him as he prepares for the August Democratic primary for attorney general against Paul Doyle and William Tong, the party’s endorsed candidate.

While Tong has the financial and party support of state Democrats, Mattei believes he is best suited to take over as the state’s top attorney from Democratic Attorney General George Jepsen. Mattei is the youngest of the five attorney general candidates in both parties. If Mattei is victorious in the primary, he must then defeat the Republican’s candidate for attorney general in November.

The 40-year-old Windsor native took a special interest in the U.S. Attorney’s Office on cracking down on those who brought illegal, out-of-state guns into Connecticut. Mattei served as chief of the financial fraud and public corruption unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He is also one of two federal prosecutors who won the second criminal conviction on corruption charges against former Republican Gov. John Rowland.

Mattei joined Bridgeport’s Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder in 2015 as a trial lawyer. His areas of focus, according to the firm’s website, include civil rights, products liability, whistleblower actions, securities fraud and election law.

Mattei, who has been endorsed by Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, was previously an attorney with Shipman & Goodwin. He also served as law clerk to U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson of Connecticut from 2005-2006. He graduated from with honors in 2005 from the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford.

Mattei recently answered several questions posed to him by the Connecticut Law Tribune. The answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Connecticut Law Tribune: You’ve been very outspoken against the policies of President Donald Trump, saying on your website that the president represents a threat “to our basic civic values and Democratic norms.” What, specifically, will you do as attorney general to counter what you see as a threat to our basic civic values by this administration?

Chris Mattei: What we’ve seen is that the Trump administration is willing to use extra-legal means to achieve its central policy objective, which, I believe, is to dismantle the institutions and regulatory regimes that protect average families and have been built over decades.

For example, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency has failed to comply with its legal obligations to protect clean air and water; the administration has defunded and undermined the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; the administration has unlawfully attempted to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; and the administration has supported the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. The act, if passed, would undermine Connecticut’s gun safety laws. Trump’s Federal Communications Commission has unlawfully repealed net neutrality, which will result in the limitation and pricing of internet content. All of these things are subject to legal challenge, and should be.

Of particular concern to me, and to many attorneys, has been Trump’s assault on the rule of law, evidence-based inquiry and objective truth itself. His attacks on the Justice Department and the media, along with his suggestions that he is not bound by traditional legal norms, have undermined public confidence in the institutions that have traditionally been a check on the abuse of power. I believe that part of my responsibility as attorney general is to oppose this trend by informing the public about the threat such behavior poses to our democracy.

CLT: You are probably best known to Connecticut residents as one of two federal prosecutors who won the second criminal conviction on corruption charges against former Gov. John Rowland. What is the most important lesson you learned from that prosecution and how can that help you as attorney general.

Mattei: I’ve learned more lessons from the cases I’ve lost than the cases I’ve won. First, I want to say that the conduct of Mr. Rowland and his co-conspirators would have never come to light were it not for the work of extremely dedicated investigators with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the persistence and insight of former Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan.

One lesson that I learned from supervising and trying that case was that some cases just need to be tried, especially the hard ones. Many factors within our justice system incentivize resolution short of trial: fewer attorneys with trial skills, the cost of trial litigation and stretched judicial resources to name a few. But trials occupy a very important position in our system of justice. They discipline investigators and prosecutors. They convey to the public that our system of justice is transparent and worthy of confidence. And they resolve important issues of law.

As attorney general, I will encourage our office to prepare every case as if it is going to trial and, where fairness and the facts allow, to try those cases with my full support and with adequate resources. The Attorney General’s Office should be a leader in advancing the cause of justice in courtrooms across our state, and trials are a critical element of that effort.

CLT: How—specifically—would a Chris Mattei Attorney General’s Office be different from a George Jepsen Attorney General’s Office?

Mattei: Our challenge is to anticipate the next generation of threats against Connecticut families.

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Robert Storace

Robert Storace covers legal trends, lawsuits and analysis for the Connecticut Law Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @RobertSCTLaw or reach him at 203-437-5950.

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