Under fire from bloggers and possible opponents, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz is firing back by asking Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to issue a legal opinion about her qualifications as a candidate for attorney general.
The firestorm started when lawyer and blogger Ryan McKeen asked whether Bysiewicz met the 10 years of “active practice” provision required to qualify for attorney general.
Then Rep. Cameron Staples, D-New Haven, who is considering a run for attorney general, told the Hartford Courant that he didn’t think Bysiewicz’s 11 years as Secretary of State counted toward the 10 years of active practice required by the statute.
By Friday evening Bysiewicz attempted to set the record straight. First by verbally asking Blumenthal for an opinion, and secondly by doing her own further legal research into the matter.
“To suggest active practice only refers to private practice is irresponsible, illustrates poor legal judgment, and is ludicrous,” Bysiewicz said in a phone interview Friday evening. She said she’s happy the blogger raised the question, but to suggest the wrong answer is irresponsible.
A student of history, Bysiewicz said George Hinman who served as attorney general from 1915 to 1919, didn’t have any private practice experience. In fact, prior to his election Hinman served as a clerk for the House and the Senate. After serving as attorney general Hinman went onto to become a Supreme Court Justice.
She said if the law is interpreted to only include private practice then Blumenthal would also not have met the 10 years of active practice provision. She said Blumenthal was a U.S. Attorney from 1977-1982 and was in private practice for nine years from 1982-1990.
“I work as a lawyer everyday,” Bysiewicz said. She said she’s a member in good standing of the Connecticut Bar Association and “it doesn’t matter what kind of law you practice.”
She said as Secretary of State she counsels businesses, voters, candidates, and town clerks as the state’s chief elections official. In each of those jobs she is held to a higher ethical standard and could be subjected to bar discipline.
Bysiewicz said her campaign’s legal team is working on writing Blumenthal a formal request for a legal opinion on the statute. While she believes he will issue one, Blumenthal’s office was mum about the possibility of an opinion.
“The Secretary of the State has contacted our office. We have received no formal request for an opinion. We cannot comment further,” Blumenthal said in a statement Friday night.
Not sounding angry or bitter about the dust up, just two days after announcing her campaign, Bysiewicz said she was glad to have the opportunity to talk about her qualifications. And in a letter to McKeen, whose blog may have created the dust up, she thanked him for the opportunity to show the public the kinds of “measured responses that I will provide the people of Connecticut when serving them as Attorney General.”
Click here to read Bysiewicz’s entire letter to McKeen.