The Winner of a $560 Million Lottery Jackpot Is Allowed to Remain Anonymous, Court Rules
(CONCORD, N.H.) A judge ruled Monday that a New Hampshire woman who won a Powerball jackpot worth nearly $560 million can keep her identity private, but not her hometown.
Judge Charles Temple noted that the case's resolution rested the state's Right-to-Know law, which governs access to public records for the woman. She was identified as "Jane Doe" in a lawsuit against the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.
"She was jumping up and down," said her lawyer, William Shaheen. "She will be able to live her life normally."
Shaheen said the woman is from Merrimack, 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Concord. The winning ticket was sold at the Reeds Ferry Market in that town for the Jan. 6 drawing.
Temple wrote he had "no doubts whatsoever that should Ms. Doe's identity be revealed, she will be subject to an alarming amount of harassment, solicitation, and other unwanted communications." He said she met her burden of showing that her privacy interest outweighs the public's interest in disclosing her name in the nation's eighth-largest jackpot.
However, Temple noted that nothing in his order could be interpreted to prevent the lottery commission or its employees from "processing, maintaining, or accessing Ms. Doe's ticket in the normal course of business."
The woman signed her ticket after the drawing, but later learned from lawyers that she could have shielded her identity by writing the name of a trust. They said she was upset after learning she was giving up her anonymity by signing the ticket — something the lottery commission acknowledged isn't spelled out on the ticket, but is detailed on its website. The woman ended up establishing the Good Karma Family Trust of 2018.
Temple found that the commission's argument that revealing her name to ensure the public she's a "bona fide" lottery participant and "real" winner was not persuasive, because a trustee claiming a prize on someone's behalf is certainly not a "bona fide" participant or a "real" winner.
"While we were expecting a different outcome and believed the state had a strong argument, we respect the court's decision," Charlie McIntyre, commission executive director, said in a statement. "That said, we will consult with the Attorney General's office to determine appropriate next steps regarding the case."
Last week, the commission handed over $264 million — the amount left after taxes were deducted — to the woman's lawyers. They said she would give $150,000 to Girls Inc. and $33,000 apiece to three chapters of End 68 Hours of Hunger in the state. It is the first of what her lawyers said would be donations over the years of between $25 million to $50 million during her lifetime.