Two years ago, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) awarded Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal a dubious distinction. Citing four categories – Dubious Dealings, Fabricating Law, AG Imperialism/Usurping Legislative Powers and Predatory Practices – Blumenthal was crowned “the worst attorney general in the United States.” He had some fierce competition: Eliot Spitzer, New York’s attorney general, had not yet been toppled from his hobby horse by consorting with prostitutes.
Among the categories not mentioned by CEI was the misuse of fraudulent affidavits to secure from judges ex parte seizures of assets. An ex parte proceeding permits judges to invest prosecutors with the authority to seize the assets of persons they are investigating -- without a hearing before a judge.
Two cases now wending their way through various courts, one involving a tea and herb vendor and the other a wood pellet distributor, graphically demonstrate Blumenthal’s abuse of ex parte attachments of assets.
Three years ago, Blumenthal sued Valerie Hoffman, a vendor of herbs and tea, and presented before a judge an affidavit that was fatally flawed. By means of this affidavit, Blumenthal was able to seize the assets of both Valerie Hoffman and her husband, a contractor in Maine who had no material connection to his wife’s business. The ex parte seizure of assets and communications between Blumenthal and a Maine bank financing the contractor’s building activity shut down Mr. Hoffman’s business, as a result of which the Hoffmans lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mrs. Hoffman was called into the attorney general’s lair and told by a thuggish enforcer that she had embarrassed the attorney general. The settlement in her case would cost her $885,000. The price of doing business with Blumenthal thereafter was bumped up to $1.3 million, outrageous for an herb and tea vendor. The largest consumer protection case in US history was for less than a million, filed against Microsoft, a multi-billion dollar company.
The complaints alleged to have been filed against Hoffman through the state’s Consumer Protection Department and the attorney general’s office amounted to about 1% of her business. Mrs. Hoffman resisted because she felt she had done nothing wrong. Virtually all of the complaints were related to a process of terminating contracts forced upon her by the Department of Consumer Protection. The DEP had instructed her that her clients would be required to terminate their contracts only by certified mail, a costly and cumbersome process. Of complainants cited by Blumenthal, some had never done business with her; others lived out of state, presumably beyond the purview of Blumenthal’s authority; still others either failed to cancel by certified mail or failed to cancel in a timely as specified in the contracts and consequently received products they thought they had not ordered. All Hoffman’s’ clients had signed contracts on an auto ship program that stipulated the terms of the contract, posted three times on her internet sight, on her office wall and within in the contracts also. To order the product, her clients had to check the auto ship box, otherwise the order would not be processed.
When push finally came to shove in a superior court where Mrs. Hoffman’s lawyer, Jim Oliver, was able to question Hoffman’s accusers, Blumenthal’s case quickly fell apart. The testimony of the one witness attorney general Matt Fitzsimmons chose to testify – out of 200 complainants – unraveled because the witness admitted a) she hadn’t read the contract, and b) the cancellation procedure forced upon Mrs. Hoffman by the CPD was too troublesome and costly.
Fitzsimmons then took the stand himself as a witness in the case. The affidavit allowing the seizure of the assets of both Mrs. Hoffman and those of her husband was fatally flawed because Fitzsimmons had no personal knowledge of the underlying consumer transaction and therefore could not testify and a witness or serve as an affiant. He was, in fact, a hearsay witness who had no direct knowledge a) that complainants even real people or b) that the affidavit he was defending was authentic.
The Hoffman case -- a more complete examination of which may be found here: -- has now wound its way through the Connecticut Supreme Court.
An important and lucid judgment not covered by the media already has been made by Superior Court Judge James Bentivega: “Fitsimmons lacked personal knowledge of the essential fact supporting the prejudgment attachments. He did not posses the requisite legal qualifications to provide the affidavits in question… This is a situation which may very well raise issues with respect to the rule s of personal conduct.”
In the face of that clear and unambiguous judgment, Blumenthal’s office is taking the rather novel legal position that the attorney general should be entitled to seize the property of Connecticut citizens based upon a fatally defective affidavit and the testimony of an assistant attorney general who lacks any personal knowledge of the underlying facts of the case.
This is not the first and it will not be the last time that Blumenthal has sought to impoverish his victims though excessive appeals, while shamelessly seizing property by means of defective affidavits. Unless Blumenthal is checked vigorously and often, no man’s property or honor in this state will be safe from his abuses.