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The first was Vermont's campaign finance law setting the lowest contribution limits in the country — shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The same fate befell the state's attempt to restrict drug company efforts to collect data on doctors' prescribing habits. On a 6-3 vote, the justices said Vermont's law was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech by drug and data collecting companies.

Now, in yet another case that has garnered national attention, the office of Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell has suffered a stinging defeat, this time in a federal trial over the state's bid to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Some observers are starting to see a pattern — one in which Sorrell and his team have gone to the legal big leagues three times and fallen flat on each attempt.

"The state now has sort of a reputation in the 2nd Circuit and the Supreme Court of not having their act together," said Patrick Parenteau, a former state commissioner of environmental conservation who is now a professor at Vermont Law School.

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