In sworn testimony released to the public this week, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 defended her eligibility to run for attorney general despite never having tried a case in court in her life.
Bysiewicz was questioned by state Republican Party’s lawyer Eliot Gersten about her legal credentials during a March 31 deposition after her office filed a state lawsuit in February to determine whether she meets a state law requiring candidates for attorney general to have served 10 years of “active practice” in the state. Bysiewicz said she was as qualified to run for attorney general as Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 was when he first sought the office in 1991.
“I’m a corporate lawyer, not a litigator,” she said.
But while Bysiewicz has been registered as a lawyer for 24 years, she has only practiced law in Connecticut for a total of six years. She has said she hopes that her 11 years as secretary of the state will be counted toward the “active practice” requirement, but she acknowledged during questioning that the position of secretary of the state did not require that she be a lawyer.
Bysiewicz also conceded that she had never sat at the counsel table in a courtroom, been a witness in a case or observed a courtroom proceeding since her first year at law school.
In January, Bysiewicz asked Blumenthal to determine the constitutionality of the state requirement. The request followed charges in media reports the day after Bysiewicz announced her candidacy that she did not have the experience to run for the office.
Blumenthal said the law was constitutional in a February opinion, adding that years of providing legal services as a public official are considered years of “active practice” in some other states. But he said a Connecticut court must determine whether a candidate has complied with the law.
Bysiewicz, for her part, said in February that she is “encouraged” by Blumenthal’s opinion, given that the examples he cited prove that her years as secretary of the state could be considered as years of active practice.
A transcript of the March 31 testimony was released by Blumenthal’s office Tuesday after Bysiewicz’s attorney withdrew a motion blocking public disclosure. A video of the deposition was released Wednesday.
Despite the controversy surrounding her candidacy, Bysiewicz has maintained a wide lead in the Democratic race against candidates George Jepsen, a former state senate majority leader, and state Sen. Cameron Staples (D-New Haven).
Final arguments in the lawsuit are scheduled for April 20, and a state judge ordered in March that it be decided before the Democratic nominating convention in late May.