Editor’s Note: This question-and-answer with Green Party attorney general candidate Peter Goselin is the sixth in a series of profiles of the candidates vying for the job.
Peter Goselin is the first person to tell you that his chance of becoming the next attorney general of Connecticut running as a Green Party candidate is next to zero. But the 58-year-old Groton native stressed that he entered the fray to bring to the forefront issues he believes the two major political party candidates ignore.
An attorney for 23 years, including the last eight years as a Hartford solo practitioner, Goselin’s practice includes wage theft, workplace discrimination, free speech at work and free speech in the community. He has been vocal in interviews, on Facebook and in his writing on his website about many issues in the news. His writing has included discussion of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. In writing on the issue July 7, Goselin said the policy was “a shameful episode in U.S. history” that was “proving even worse than we could have imagined.”
On July 5, Goselin posted on his website a “platform for a people’s attorney general.” Many issues cited in the platform are not being discussed front and center by the three Democratic attorney general candidates or the two Republican attorney general candidates.
Those issues cited by Goselin include racial profiling by police; building a statewide coalition to act as the eyes and ears of the Attorney General’s Office in support of workers’ rights on the job and fighting wage theft; defending reproductive health clinics with court-sanctioned safety zones so patients aren’t harassed; and making Connecticut a part of a “global boycott, sanctions, and divestment campaign in defense of the people of Palestine.”
A current West Hartford resident, Goselin graduated with honors from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1995.
Goselin’s responses to the Connecticut Law Tribune have been edited for length and clarity.
Connecticut Law Tribune: As you know the opioid epidemic in the state is on the rise. George Jepsen said he’s proud of how the office has tackled the problem, and points to October 2017 when Connecticut joined 40 other Attorneys General 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?
Peter Goselin: There’s no question that opioid addiction is a major health problem, or that legal action against the major pharmaceutical companies for the destruction of human lives that they have caused should proceed. Still, it’s difficult not to notice that the prescription opioid crisis with its roots in white communities has created victims who go into treatment, while heroin and crack cocaine, drugs that more severely impacted the African-American community, created addicts who went to jail.
That’s why I believe we need a complete re-examination of how Connecticut treats the problem of drug addiction. The immediate focus should be on harm-reduction measures, like needle exchanges, wide access to Naloxone to save the lives of people who overdose, experiments in medically supervised venues for distributing “clean” drugs to people with addictions, and broad access to mental health services. This would be accompanied by decreasing criminal penalties for simple possession and the legalization of marijuana. The first step in ending the drug crisis is ending the war on drugs.
CLT: How—specifically—would a Peter Goselin Attorney General’s Office be different from a George Jepsen Attorney General’s Office?
Goselin: As a Green Party candidate, I didn’t enter the race for attorney general with the expectation that I’d win. The message that we are bringing to the people of Connecticut through this campaign is two-fold. First, an affirmation of what many working and poor people in Connecticut already know: The system is broken beyond repair, and what the major parties are offering us is lip service. Second, that any power that we have in the halls of state government is only a reflection of the power that we have in the street. So both before and after the election, our goal is to build that power.
CLT: On July 7 on Facebook you wrote a piece titled “A shameful episode in U.S. history is proving even worse than we could have imagined,” related to President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration. What specific policy initiative related to immigration would an Attorney General’s Office under your leadership undertake?
Goselin: Immigration itself is a matter of federal policy, but it’s the job of the attorney general to protect the interests of the people—all of the people—of Connecticut. And in the last month we’ve had decisions by federal judges in Pennsylvania and California, recognizing a community’s right to declare itself a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees. As one judge put it, refusing to help is not the same as interfering. So we may not be able to stop the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol [Customs and Border Protection] from detaining people, but we are not required to be complicit in their police-state tactics.
As attorney general, I would take legal action to stop the federal government from terrorizing immigrants and refugees who live here. In particular, that means getting ICE out of Connecticut’s courthouses and off the campuses of Connecticut’s schools, and it means ending the Border Patrol’s random traffic stops and arbitrary questioning of people on public transportation in the northeast.
CLT: There are nine items of interest you highlighted July 5 on your “platform for a people’s attorney general.” The first item you highlight calls for enforcing “Connecticut’s civil rights laws against local police departments that use racial profiling and violence against people of color.” How, specifically, would a Goselin Attorney General’s Office go about doing that?
Goselin: I created the Platform for a People’s Attorney General to show voters there are strong measures the office could take to address serious problems, if only the attorney general had the political will to carry them out. I headed the list with the call for the Attorney General’s Office to investigate and take action against racial profiling, because in Connecticut’s cities it’s the problem everyone knows exists but no politician is willing to talk about. One of the rare instances in which the system worked in addressing the problem was when the federal government acted against the East Haven Police Department, which it determined was permeated with a culture of racism.
The increasingly reckless use of deadly force by police, the militarization of police departments, and the over-policing of political dissent is a national epidemic.
CLT: Another item your platform highlights relates to the “support of workers’ rights on the job.” What specific rights are in danger, and how would you protect them?
Goselin: When it comes to workers’ legal rights on the job in Connecticut, those rights are not directly in danger but there is certainly the risk they will expire from disuse.
Connecticut has strong wage-and-hour laws, but our Department of Labor lacks the resources to enforce them. We have anti-discrimination laws, but our Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities is so backlogged as to be largely ineffective. Even the guarantee of unemployment compensation is jeopardized when employers can escape responsibility to pay benefits by misclassifying its employees as “independent contractors.”
I agree with State Rep. William Tong, who has stated the Attorney General’s Office needs a Civil Rights Division. As attorney general, I would aggressively pursue employers—as well as landlords and others—who think that our commitment to human equality is just so much paperwork.