While lawyers for the winner of a $560 million Powerball jackpot headed into a Nashua, N.H., courtroom Tuesday to fight for her privacy, one New Hampshire legislator said he wants to change state law to ensure the anonymity of all winners.
State Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester, said he's not sure changing the law would have any effect on this Powerball case.
"But there are so many things going on in this world, I think that anytime we can protect someone's privacy, we should probably do it," Cavanaugh said.
The Powerball winner has not cashed in her ticket while the legal battle to maintain her anonymity rages. Judge Charles Temple took the case under advisement after a short hearing. Lawyer Steven Gordon claimed his client loses thousands of dollars a day in interest, but state Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre said the woman might be able to claim her winnings in a few days while the legal questions are sorted out.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, lottery officials said the process "of paying the winner is being worked on between (the winner's) representatives and the New Hampshire Lottery Commission. At this time, there is no further decision as to when it will take place."
Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina allow winners to remain anonymous. Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill to join them. New Hampshire is among a handful of states where anonymity can be protected with a bit of legal wrangling.
New Hampshire law requires release of a winner's name and hometown. The state Attorney General's Office said the real name of the woman, identified only as Jane Doe, must be revealed because she signed her name on the back of the ticket.
Release of the names provides transparency and assures the public that winners aren't associated with the lottery, the office said.
Her lawyers want a do-over. They said in court documents that she made a "huge mistake" when she signed her real name on the back of the ticket before contacting them. She could have remained anonymous had she established a trust, then had a trustee sign the ticket, the lawyers said.
Cavanaugh suggested tickets include a box buyers could check to indicate they didn't want their names revealed. He said he hopes to explore the legal ramifications — and the legislative interest — in coming days.
Jane Doe won the Powerball drawing Jan. 6 after buying the ticket at Reeds Ferry Market, a convenience store in Merrimack, N.H. Her lawsuit, filed last month, claims she joined a small demographic of jackpot winners that "has historically been victimized by the unscrupulous."
"The disclosure of Ms. Doe's identifying information would constitute an invasion of privacy because the limited public interest in disclosure is far outweighed by Ms. Doe's interest in remaining anonymous," the lawyers said.
The lawsuit describes the woman as an "engaged community member" who wants to return to Reeds Ferry Market, attend public events and otherwise function "without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars."
The complaint says she plans to remain in New Hampshire and give back "to the state and community that has given so much to her."
Cavanaugh said he understands the woman's concerns — he bought a lottery ticket himself over the weekend. If lawmakers can't help her, they might at least help future winners.
His lottery purchase Saturday did not place him in that group.
"No winner," he said with a laugh. "I wouldn't have to check any box."