Volunteer Attorney Says Parties Have Same Legal Issues As Businesses
Along the way, he has also been involved in state politics. He has worked as a political correspondent on Fox CT News for the past three years, talking on camera about Connecticut political campaigns. "It was through those appearances that led to getting this appointment," he said.
He has also worked on high-profile election law cases. When he was a brand new lawyer at Murtha, the firm represented the Connecticut Democratic Party, on behalf of Attorney General George Jepsen. Martha Dean, who was Jepsen's Republican opponent in the 2010 race, filed a lawsuit to try to knock Jepsen from the ballot.
The lawsuit that was filed against Jepsen and then-Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, as the state's top election official, asked for a court to rule whether Jepsen's relative lack of litigation experience should bar him from becoming attorney general.
The lawsuit appeared to be a replay of the Republican Party's successful effort earlier in 2010 to drive Bysiewicz from the attorney general's race. In that challenge, the state Republican party convinced the state Supreme Court that while Bysiewicz was a lawyer, she had not actively practiced for 10 years.
In defending against the lawsuit that challenged Jepsen's candidacy, Goldfarb recalled working in a supporting role, researching the election laws and preparing some of the briefs. "It was a fire drill because the case was decided on November 3, 2010, within days of the election," Goldfarb said. "We won a motion to dismiss for lack of standing."
It's not unusual for the statewide parties to hire outside law firms to handle litigation matters. Making those sorts of decisions will be among Goldfarb's new responsibilities.
His predecessor, Justin Clark, of the small Glastonbury firm of Davis & Clark, served as the volunteer GOP general counsel from 2011 to 2012. When a lawsuit was filed last year over the order of candidates' names on the ballot, the Connecticut Republican Party hired the Rome McGuigan law firm. The question was whether Democratic or Republican candidates would be listed on the top line on the November ballot. Democrats cited Malloy's victory in arguing for their candidates. But the Republicans noted that Malloy had been cross-endorsed by a minor party and his tally on the Democratic ballot line was less than the vote total for the Republican candidate. The Supreme Court backed the GOP and said Republican candidates should be listed first.
In that case, the party leadership thought it was best to go with an outside firm, because they could give the matter the attention it needed, said Clark. He agreed that it is a necessity for the general counsel for a statewide party to stay up to date on all changes to campaign finance and election laws. "When your client asks a question, you want to be able to be of use," he said.
Partners at Murtha Cullina see the appointment of Goldfarb to the GC spot as a boon to their own business. Elizabeth J. Stewart, the managing partner of the firm, said the selection of Goldfarb is a great example for other attorneys in providing community involvement. "Serving as general counsel will afford Michael a great platform from which to grow his civil litigation and election law practices, while providing added value to our client base," she said.•