Editor’s Note: This question-and-answer interview with Democratic attorney general candidate Paul Doyle is the fourth in a series of profiles of the five candidates vying for the job.
Growing up in a political household, Paul Doyle said he learned a lot about Democratic politics and the law from his mentor: his father, former Superior Court Judge Ed Doyle. It is this greater understanding of life and the law that he learned from his father that Doyle said has guided him in his race for attorney general.
“When you grow up in a house of politics, it impacts you,” the 55-year-old Wethersfield resident said in a recent interview with the Connecticut Law Tribune. “My father knew this business and he taught me common sense. He went to Yale Law School and was my role model.”
Doyle’s father was a Superior Court judge, who later worked on numerous political campaigns for Democratic candidates.
As Doyle enters the final two months of campaigning before the August primary, in the hope of succeeding Democratic Attorney General George Jepsen, he’s pushing an agenda that highlights women’s right and targets President Donald Trump. Both of these strategies are part of his five-point action plan, highlighted on his website.
Doyle is a lawyer and a state senator serving his sixth term representing five communities in central Connecticut. He is also co-chairperson of the state Senate Judiciary Committee. Fighting for women’s right, he said, will be a top priority.
His website says he “will continue to fight against attacks on women’s rights and [will] go to court to defend a woman’s access to comprehensive health care services, reproductive freedoms, and right to pay equity.”
Doyle has been an attorney since 1990. He is a partner at Kennedy Doyle, which has offices in Rocky Hill and New York. The small law firm handles business law, personal injury, real estate and probate matters, among other practice areas.
Doyle received his law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1990.
Connecticut Law Tribune: How—specifically—would a Paul Doyle Attorney General’s Office be different from a George Jepsen Attorney’s General Office?
Paul Doyle: I think George Jepsen has done a fine job. I like how he has filed lawsuits against the Trump administration when necessary and appropriate. I’d support those pending actions.
As attorney general, I’d [have] more of a focus on the consumer issues. As attorney general, you are the people’s lawyer, and I really want to help the people as far as consumer protection issues. Some of my ideas include getting the implementation of a 24-hour consumer telephone hotline up and running.
CLT: As you know, the opioid epidemic in the state is on the rise. Jepsen said he’s proud of how the Attorney General’s Office has tackled the problem, and points to October 2017 when Connecticut joined 40 other Attorneys General’s Offices in the country to issue subpoenas to several pharmaceutical drug manufacturers for information about how the companies market opioids. What—specifically—will you do, if elected attorney general, to address the opioid crisis?
Doyle: The opioid crisis is significant statewide, in both urban and suburban communities. It’s a well-established issue in Connecticut and nationwide.
I want to further the effort to create a lawsuit with multiple states, the parallel being the tobacco lawsuit. The prior attorney generals, in Connecticut’s case under then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, filed a lawsuit and sued the tobacco companies.
There was a massive settlement In that we are still receiving [money] today. The parallel is that—with the tobacco situation—there was a severe health problem. Here, because of over prescription, there has been a lot of harm to the citizens of Connecticut. There have been deaths and increased health care costs. I want to further the efforts of the attorney general to file a lawsuit with multiple states to go after the opioid companies, the distributors and the manufacturers, to really get compensation for the state of Connecticut.
There has been significant cost incurred by us, but I’d also like to target some of the proceeds from these lawsuits for treatment for the people. Treatment is a huge issue. The attorney general can’t direct where the proceeds can go, but I would strongly emphasize and urge that much of the money go to treatment. In the tobacco situation, very little went to cessation efforts, as most went to the General Fund.
CLT: One of your five-point action plans on your website is to “fight the Trump agenda.” You say you will “stand up for Connecticut’s citizens against President Donald Trump’s attempts to harm our citizens and our state’s way of life.” What—specifically—will you do as attorney general to counter what you see as Trump’s attempts to harm our citizens and our state’s way of life?
Doyle: Currently, George Jepsen has 44 or so cases pending against the Trump administration. As I’ve read those, I would support them. Many deal with the environmental health of Connecticut. In addition, we just had a setback with the net neutrality lawsuit. But that’s because of the FCC. [Net neutrality] is very important and I would support that.
Also, I can’t predict what future decisions Trump will make, but certainly there will be other lawsuits that will need to be filed. I support George’s lawsuits as I think they are all very sound. If elected, we’d continue to fight for the environmental issues and issues like off-shore drilling. We had a good result this past week in the pending New York case regarding the clear air emissions as we do not get the benefits of it, just the negative and the bad air. It’s a downwind state issue and that is a case I’d support moving forward on.
CLT: Another part of your five-point action plan is to establish a 24-hour Connecticut attorney general’s consumer telephone hotline and Internet portal. Why is such a hotline and portal needed today and how—specifically—will it make the Attorney General’s Office more consumer-friendly.
Doyle: In my experience as a lawyer and a public servant, my No. 1 focus has always been working with and helping people. As a state senator you have constituent service and as a lawyer all my clients were always people. I did not work with big corporations. Its face-to-face clients, and for me it’s always been solving a problem for the people, whether as constituents, or as a client, as a lawyer.
As attorney general, I really want to hear from the people and learn what the problems and concerns are. If I’m successful, and I get the 24-hour hotline and the portal set up, I’d be hearing directly from the people. The key is they will tell me their problems, whether it be with an insurance company or a scam. For instance, the current hot scam out there is the IRS scam where people are getting calls saying you owe money and will be thrown into prison. The IRS scam is obvious because the IRS only communicates by mail.
With this website, and the calls you can tabulate, you can solve many problems. You can find out what the issues are and then use the bully pulpit of the office to solve the problems that help the people. I want to be the attorney general that fights for the people. You are the chief civil lawyer and, really, the defender of the people. This is a way to hear from the people and to then fight for the people.
CLT: You have been known for bucking your party. There are many instances of this occurring. For instance you were only one of two Democrats to oppose the 2011 transgender rights bill, the only Democrat to vote against the New Britain-Hartford Busway, and you were one of three Democrats to support former Republican Gov. Jodi Rell’s plan for a ‘three-strikes law’ against career violent criminals. What one proposal or initiative would you spearhead, support or push as attorney general that Democrats might be surprised at and might not be in full support of?
Doyle: I’ve made the tough decisions in my legislative career. Sometimes you have to do what is right for the people and what is right for the state, and I’ve done that.
My approach, if I were attorney general, is … to fight for the people and work hard. But you also want to preserve jobs. So my approach would be, rather than immediately filing a lawsuit against all of the businesses, you’d take a breath, meet with them and work with them. If they are bad actors and I meet with them and they are not cooperating, then I’d certainly sue them. You file a lawsuit on two grounds: based on the law and what’s best for the people, and not on what is best for my personal ambition. So, I wouldn’t rush to file a lawsuit against a company. I would hesitate before filing suit.
If businesses cooperate you are better apt at preserving jobs and keeping those businesses here. Jobs are essential for all of the citizens in the state of Connecticut.