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Vermont attorney general loses three high-profile cases

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January 31, 2012

By Lauren Rodgers

Vermont
U.S. federal court system: 3
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell: 0

First, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Vermont's campaign finance law that set the lowest campaign contribution limits in the nation. Next, the same court ruled that a state law that restricted "drug company efforts to collect data on doctors' prescribing habits" is unconstitutional. Most recently, Sorrell's attempt to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant was overturned. Sorrell's supporters argue the cases well tough and well-fought, and point out the state legislature "has pushed the envelope in a number of policy issues." Critics of the actions of the state attorney general's office are quick to note the office "was trying to defend state legislation that courts found simply didn't pass constitutional muster."[1]

Sorrell acknowledges his recent defeats but highlights the successes his office has seen during his tenure. Most notably, he cites his successful defense of Vermont's "new and aggressive car fuel economy standards" in 2007.[1]

It is unclear how his recent track record will affect his performance at the polls in November. Sorrell was first appointed to the statewide office in 1997 and has won re-election to seven, two-year terms since and faces re-election again this year. In 2010, he defeated Republican challenger Aaron Toscano and three third party candidates with a commanding 61.9% of the vote. No Democrats have emerged, as of yet, to challenge him in the August 28 partisan primary, and "Republican criticism likely would be muted by the fact that the three biggest cases lost by Sorrell's office came while trying to defend legislation most members of that party opposed."[1] There is still plenty of time for that to change, though: candidate filing for Vermont doesn't open until February 13th.

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