“Everyday I‘m engaged in the active practice of law,” Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said when she testified in court Wednesday.
Just how much time she dedicates to giving legal advice is what, Eliot Gersten, the attorney for the Republican Party wanted to know.
Offering up her schedule for the past 12 years as an exhibit in the case Bysiewicz filed against her own office and the state Democratic Party, Gersten kept asking how many hours a day she dedicates to giving advice.
“Would you say it’s 10 percent?” Gersten asked.
“I would say it‘s significant, but I couldn‘t tell you how much,” Bysiewicz answered.
As for her eligibility, Bysiewicz said she believes it’s her civil right to run, but filed the lawsuit because significant questions about her eligibility remained.
Bysiewicz is hoping the court finds she’s eligible to run for attorney general, but in order to meet that requirement she must have practiced law for at least 10 years. Bysiewicz has been a lawyer for 24 years, but she lacks the 10 years of active practice, if her time in elected office is not counted.
If she fails to meet that requirement her attorney, Wesley Horton, has said he will argue that she’s still eligible based on the state’s constitution.
Gersten questioned Bysiewicz’s legal background most of the morning by asking about how many years she worked at the law firm of Robinson and Cole. According to Bysiewicz’s resume it looks like she spent four years at the Hartford law firm, but upon further questioning she admitted she took some time off to campaign.
Bysiewicz said she called Robinson and Cole to try and confirm the dates of her employment and they told her she worked there for two years, which she said, “is inaccurate.” She said she questioned the firms records.
Gersten said they have subpoenaed the records.
While working as a corporate lawyer at the Aetna Bysiewicz said she took maternity leave from December 1991 to February 1992 for the birth of her first daughter.
Repeating some of the questioning he used in the deposition, Gersten asked whether Bysiewicz referred to herself as an attorney-at-law or a lawyer.
“It doesn’t matter what I call myself, it matters what I do everyday,” Bysiewicz replied.
After a lunchtime recess, Gersten focused his questions on her failure to pay the occupational tax from 1997 to 2000 and what she admitted was a “mistake” on her 2006 payment to the Client Security Fund.
The Hartford Courant had reported in January that Bysiewicz had received a 50 percent exemption on the basis that she didn’t “engage in the practice of law as an occupation.”
Showing the form on a projection screen in court, Gersten asked if she knew what she was doing by checking the exemption box.
“We missed one payment,” Bysiewicz said. “It was an error, I corrected it on Jan. 25.”
When he asked if she had corrected the form, Bysiewicz said she paid the additional $55 to correct the matter.
“I made a mistake on one form,” Bysiewicz said.
A handful of times throughout the all-day hearing Wednesday Superior Court Judge Michael Sheldon gently reminded Gersten to stay focused on Bysiewicz‘s “day-to-day” activities.
“What would be helpful are nouns and verbs of what she does,” Sheldon said.
Sheldon also reminded Bysiewicz not the embellish her answers and to simply answer the question Mr. Gersten asks.
Gersten told Judge Sheldon that he is seeking to prove Bysiewicz does nothing more than the head of any state agency.
“In many ways you’re a regulator, aren’t you?” Gersten asked.
“I’m not sure. I’m the head of a constitutional office,” Bysiewicz replied.
Bysiewicz will return to the stand Thursday and final arguments in the case are expected to be held, Tuesday, April 20. The state Democratic convention where delegates will have to chose a candidate is on May 22.
After the proceedings Wednesday the lawyers in the case and Bysiewicz declined to comment, but Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said the lawsuit is about collecting important information.
“Sometimes it’s lengthy and detailed, but I think we’re getting to the facts like we‘re supposed to,” he said. “It’s up to the Secretary of the State to make the case for why she’s qualified.”
While the lawsuit may have caused at least one television reporter to doze off during the proceedings, “Look how boring this would be if we didn’t take this case,” Healy quipped.