Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 is still running for attorney general — even if there are still questions about whether she legally can.
Late last month, Bysiewicz asked Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, whose position will be open because he is running for Sen. Christopher Dodd’s seat, to determine the constitutionality of a state law mandating attorney general candidates to have been in “active practice” of law for at least 10 years. 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.
In an opinion released Tuesday, Blumenthal upheld the law’s constitutionality, 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. As of Tuesday, it was not immediately clear whether anyone would contest in court whether Bysiewicz, who has been a member of the Connecticut state bar for 24 years but only worked in Connecticut private practice for six, can legally run.
Bysiewicz, for her part, said 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.
“It validates what I’ve been saying all along,” she said.
Still, Democratic opponents George Jepsen and state Rep. Cameron Staples (D-New Haven), as well as potential Republican opponent John Pavia, said in interviews Tuesday that Bysiewicz should volunteer to ask the state court to determine whether she is indeed qualified to run.
“If she’s so confident that she’s credentialed, I don’t know why she doesn’t just solve it by taking it to court,” he said.
Bysiewicz said she has no plans to take the issue to court and is moving forward with her campaign, adding that it is the “prerogative of others” to bring her to court.
In Blumenthal’s 14-page opinion, he explained active practice using examples of definitions from other states. Blumenthal said that in these other states, “active practice” means more than bar membership in that state. In Alaska, he explained in the opinion, the phrase means, among other things, “rendering legal services to an agency, branch or department of a civil government within the United States or a state or territory of the United States in an elective, appointive or employed capacity.”
Jepsen said that if a Republican challenges the legality of her candidacy, she could be removed from the ballot or kicked out of office if she wins the general election. He said that he does not intend to bring her to court because of time constraints and his desire to focus on his own campaign.
Alon Harish contributed reporting.