Attorney General Richard Blumenthal concluded that questions about Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz’s qualifications for attorney general need to be determined by the courts or the legislature.
“This office will not have the last word, it must be from the court,” Blumenthal said Tuesday at a press conference releasing the opinion.
While more questions than answers were left by the 14-page opinion, Blumenthal concluded the statute which says an attorney general must have 10 years of “active practice,” is “constitutional.”
“It is constitutional because the framers of the 1970 amendment really incorporated the qualifications of that statute and assumed they would continue to apply because the attorney general was in fact an attorney,” Blumenthal said Tuesday.
As far as determining specifically if Bysiewicz is qualified Blumenthal deferred to the courts or the legislature should it wish to weigh in on the issue and clarify the “active practice” statute.
“I believe very strongly my office can’t answer the question of what is active practice for any candidate,” Blumenthal said. But he did say that “active practice means something more than being an attorney and a member of the bar.”
Which means either Bysiewicz can ask a court as the Secretary of State for an opinion or she can ask as a candidate. The court would then have to comb through her background and determine if her years as Secretary of State counted toward the active practice provision.
But Bysiewicz said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon that she thinks Blumenthal’s opinion validates her position. She said she won’t ask the courts for an opinion because “this supports what I’ve been saying all along.”
“I’m moving forward,” Bysiewicz said.
According to her accounting she’s been practicing law for the past 20 years and has engaged in a wide-variety of legal activities which constitute active practice as defined in Blumenthal’s opinion. Specifically Bysiewicz pointed to page 13 of the 14-page decision, which talks about how Alabama, Texas and Alaska have interpreted “active practice.”
At this point “this is a political question for the voters to decide,” Bysiewicz said.
Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said Bysiewicz should have sought the opinion as a candidate and should have used her campaign funds to hire an attorney to ask the court for a declaratory ruling.
“Any competent lawyer will look at the law and say she’s not qualified,” Healy said. “She’s struggling mightily to apply for a job she’s not qualified for.”
If Bysiewicz doesn’t ask the courts for an opinion then Healy said he will.
As far as Blumenthal’s opinion is concerned, “he punted,” Healy said.
One of Bysiewicz’s Democratic opponents sent out a statement urging Bysiewicz to seek the courts help in determining her qualifications.
“The people of Connecticut deserve clarification of Susan’s legal status as a candidate for Attorney General,” George Jepsen said. “It falls on her to take appropriate steps to resolve the question of her qualifications.”
Jepsen has said he wouldn’t seek to challenge Bysiewicz’s qualifications in court, but Healy said he has no trouble bringing the matter to a court. Rep. Cameron Staples of New Haven is the other Democrat running for attorney general. On the Republican side John Pavia III of Easton has filed papers to run for the office, while Rep. Art O’Neill of Southbury is still considering a run for the Republican nomination.