New Hampshire lottery officials are grandstanding with their claim that they must identify the winner of a $560 million Powerball jackpot for transparency’s sake, the winner’s lawyer asserted Tuesday during a court hearing.
“It’s a feel-good argument, ‘we want to be transparent,’ ” said Steven M. Gordon, who represents the woman, a New Hampshire resident identified as Jane Doe in court papers.
“But it really has the substance of cotton candy once you start looking at it in detail.”
Gordon, of the high-powered Shaheen & Gordon firm cofounded by William Shaheen, husband of Senator Jeanne Shaheen, addressed Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Charles S. Temple during a 90-minute hearing on the matter.
Doe won the jackpot last month and signed the back of the ticket, before realizing a trust could have signed the ticket and accepted the money on her behalf, keeping her name private.
Now she wants Temple to order her name withheld from public records requests, or let her replace her name on the ticket with a trust that she’s since created.
State officials say altering the ticket will make it invalid.
Gordon said the notion that Doe’s name must be revealed so the lottery can fulfill its mission of transparency is “defeated,” since a trust can accept a prize on behalf of a winner.
In addition, Gordon said, the lottery commission publicly discloses its audit reports, contracts, employee salaries, and fiscal management structure — information the public needs to assess how the agency is functioning.
“The disclosure of Ms. Doe’s identity would reveal nothing about what the commission is up to,” Gordon said.
Not true, according to state Assistant Attorney General John J. Conforti, speaking on behalf of the commission.
Conforti said a signed, winning lottery ticket is a public record under state law.
“Transparency ensures that these games are on the level,” Conforti said.
“. . . When somebody wins a lottery [prize] of $560 million, there is a public interest in knowing who the winner was, and that it was a fair and equitable process,” Conforti said.
Replacing the woman’s name on the ticket with her trust, he said, is strictly prohibited by the Multi-State Lottery Association, or MUSL, which administers Powerball.
“We cannot guarantee that MUSL will honor the ticket if it’s altered or destroyed,” Conforti said.
The commission seeks the dismissal of Doe’s lawsuit; Temple took the dismissal motion under advisement.
Gordon said Doe isn’t proposing altering the original ticket; she wants the state to make a photocopy of that ticket.
The altered photocopy, bearing the name of Doe’s trust instead of her name, would be provided in response to public records requests.
Gordon reiterated during the hearing that his office and the Merrimack market that sold the ticket have been inundated with calls from strangers seeking information about Doe.
Concerns that she’ll be harassed if her name is publicized, Gordon said, “are real.”
The winning ticket has to be redeemed within a year of the drawing.
Doe has also filed a motion seeking payment of the jackpot to her trust, pending the resolution of the lawsuit.
“Ms. Doe would like her money,” Gordon said.
“And I think if she has the winning ticket, [then the] commission would like to give it to her,” Gordon added.
The commission is expected to file a response to the request in court in the coming days.
Conforti said the commission will likely agree to the transfer motion, but there “may be some verbiage” to iron out.