Attorney General: Robert W. Werner, Division of Special Revenue, 1993-008 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

April 29, 1993

Robert W. Werner
Executive Director
Division of Special Revenue
555 Russell Road
Newington, CT 06111

Dear Mr. Werner:

In your letter of February 11, 1993, you ask whether the State of Connecticut, as a creditor, is disabled from being the assignee of a Connecticut lottery winner because of a regulation which prohibits any assignment of lottery funds. In our opinion, the State does not suffer any such disability.

The relevant facts may be briefly stated as follows: John J. Durbis, in February of 1975, was declared to be a Connecticut State Lottery winner entitled to annual payments of $16,875.00.1 Mr. Durbis currently owes the State of Connecticut $49,973.43 which represents the cost of medical care rendered by John Dempsey Hospital. Mr. Durbis contests neither the fact nor the amount of this indebtedness.

The State of Connecticut has initiated a civil lawsuit against Mr. Durbis to collect this amount and, as an adjunct thereof, has secured an order of garnishment from the Superior Court directed specifically against the funds in question.2 Mr. Durbis subsequently executed and delivered to the Division, a document entitled "Consent and Direction to Disburse Lottery Winnings", which purports to authorize the Division to make the final two payments of the lottery proceeds to the State of Connecticut as partial restitution for his acknowledged debt.

You ask whether, in light of the provisions of Lottery Regulations  12-568-5(d), the Division may honor the written direction of Mr. Durbis. This regulation, in pertinent part, provides: "A prize to which a purchaser may become entitled shall not be assignable." You inform us that, on the basis of this regulation, the Division has consistently refused to honor requested assignments of any lottery winnings.

It is a time honored axiom of statutory construction that a statute is not to be construed as applying against the State unless the same statute, in express terms or by necessary implication, so provides.

"It may be stated we think as a universal rule in the construction of statutes limiting rights, that they are not to be construed to embrace the government or sovereignty unless by express terms or necessary implication such appears to have been the clear intention of the legislature, and the rights of the government are not to be impaired by a statute unless its terms are clear and explicit, and admit of no other construction." State v. Shelton, 47 Conn. 400, 404; State v. Hartford, 50 Conn. 89, 90.

State v. Goldfarb, 160 Conn. 320, 323, 278 A.2d 818 (1971).

Thus, even if a Connecticut General Statute provided that a prize to which a purchaser may become entitled shall not be assignable, such a provision would not be construed to limit the right of the State to demand assignment absent explicit language wherein the State was disabled.3 The same reasoning applies, perhaps with more force, when the limitation is regulation based.

Thus, it is our opinion that the cited regulation does not prohibit the Division from recognizing the "Consent" document executed by Mr. Durbis.

Very truly yours,

Richard Blumenthal
Attorney General

Richard M. Sheridan
Assistant Attorney General

RB/RMS/td


1 Two such annual payments, totalling some $33,750.00, remain outstanding.

2 Your request for opinion also asks whether such a garnishment proceeding may be maintained in circumstances such as these, i.e., by the State against the State. In light of our conclusion that the "Consent" of Mr. Durbis is effective, we respectfully decline to address this issue since it is, in essence, moot.

3 See for example: Conn.Gen.Stat. 52-361a(g) (State, as employer, is subject to court order of wage execution); Conn.Gen.Stat. 31-51m (State, as employer, may be named as defendant in civil suit for wrongful discharge).


Back to the 1993 Opinions Page
Back to Opinions Page



Content Last Modified on 6/8/2005 12:23:28 PM