A former labor lawyer and one-time chair of the state Democratic party, Attorney General George Jepsen announced Thursday that he will appeal the 2nd Circuit Court decision by a three-judge panel in favor of state employee unions who were laid off by former Gov. John G. Rowland.

“After careful consideration, I have decided to seek review of the Second Circuit’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in light of the potentially significant fiscal consequences for Connecticut taxpayers,” Jepsen said in a statement.

The 2nd Circuit found Connecticut officials targeted nearly 3,000 state employees for firing because they belonged to a union. At stake in the lawsuit are damages for the 2,800 state employees, most of whom are back at work. The 2nd Circuit also found that Rowland and his budget chief, Marc Ryan, could be held individually liable for damages in the suit when they sent it back down to the district court.

Daniel Livingston, lead negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, expressed his disappointment with Jepsen’s decision to appeal.

“Rowland’s illegal and vindictive behavior left all of us in a difficult position, but we’re disappointed the Attorney General has chosen to appeal the decision,” Livingston said.

“We believe without question that the court got it right. When a governor punishes people because of the group to which they belong — whether it’s a union or a political party, or a religion — he or she violates our Constitution’s most cherished provisions,” he added.

Labor organizations and state employees filed suit in 2003, claiming that the unionized workers were targeted for firing.

Rowland and Ryan explained the layoffs as the result of “economic necessity caused by the state’s fiscal year 2003 budget deficit,” according to the 2nd Circuit ruling. The federal appeals court concluded, however, that the layoffs “had a minimal effect” on the fiscal year 2003 deficit.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy acknowledged last week that there was exposure to the state based on the reversal of the district court decision.

“The Second Circuit’s decision that the Rowland administration violated employees’ First Amendment rights means that Rowland’s actions have now exposed Connecticut’s taxpayers to potentially significant costs,” Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Malloy, said Thursday. “So while Governor Malloy never supported the approach John Rowland took, he understands the Attorney General’s decision.”

In a statement after the release of the 2nd Circuit decision last week, Rowland, now an afternoon radio host on WTIC-AM, encouraged the state to appeal the decision.

“Our administration acted in full compliance with all collective bargaining agreements, which the unions agreed to in court,” Rowland said in an email. “This decision however will have significant impact on all future budget negotiations here in Connecticut, nationally, and even locally.”

The Supreme Court has 90 days to decide whether it will take the case.