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SUSAN BYSIEWICZ SEEKS COURT OPINION TO DETERMINE HER QUALIFICATIONS FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL
by Sharon Rondeau
(Feb. 21, 2010) — In a move to maintain her candidacy for Connecticut Attorney General, Susan Bysiewicz (D) has announced that contrary to her previous statement, she will seek a court opinion to determine if she is eligible for the job.
Bysiewicz will ask the Hartford Superior Court to rule on whether or not her experience meets the 1897 statutory requirement of ten years of “active practice of law” to serve as attorney general. Originally Bysiewicz stated that her qualifications were a political question to be decided by Connecticut voters. However, during a press conference on Thursday, February 18, she said, “I still believe this is a political question best decided by the voters, but lest there be any doubt about the law, I thought it was important just to go forward and get the question answered sooner rather than later.”
At issue is whether or not Bysiewicz’s supervision of attorneys and other staffers as Connecticut Secretary of the State qualifies as “active practice.” Bysiewicz has six years of law practice in the state and two in New York. Conn. Gen. Stat. §3-124 reads: “The attorney-general shall be an elector of this state, and an attorney-at-law of at least ten years’ active practice at the bar of this state.”
According to the Connecticut Law Tribune, attorney and blogger Ryan McKeen of East Hartford raised the question of Bysiewicz’s eligibility for attorney general shortly after she announced her intentions to seek the office.
In his 14-page opinion issued in response to Bysiewicz’s request for a legal opinion, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal stated that “the requirement of ‘active practice’ at the bar of this state for ten years means more than merely being a member of the Connecticut bar in active status.” Blumenthal’s full opinion issued February 2, 2010, can be read here.
Bysiewicz sought to justify her lawsuit by stating that she is the “best qualified” person for the position of attorney general because of her role as Secretary of the State in which she supervises attorneys. She claimed that her current position “is the same kind of job that Richard Blumenthal does as attorney general.”
When the lawsuit is heard, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s office will reportedly defend the statute as constitutional.
In late November 2008, Blumenthal defended Bysiewicz in a case brought by Connecticut resident Cort Wrotnowski which challenged Bysiewicz’s decision to place Barack H. Obama’s name on the state ballot for president, claiming that Obama might not be constitutionally qualified.