Hartford Superior Court Judge Michael R. Sheldon questioned attorneys Tuesday morning about how he should separate the duties of the Office of the Secretary of the State from the active practice of law in an effort to determine whether Susan Bysiewicz meets the statutory requirements to run for attorney general.
Since the Secretary of the State is not required to be an attorney, Sheldon seemed to want to reconcile the facts regarding Bysiewicz’s claims that she practices law as part of her duties in that office.
Eliot Gersten, the attorney for the Republican Party, said that during her 12 years in office Bysiewicz and her attorney’s were only able to provide a handful of examples to defend its claim that she practices law.
“We don’t have very much to look at,” Gersten said. “What we have is a lot of documentation that does not reflect it.”
Gersten said the practice book explicitly excludes advocating for legislation, which is one of examples of practicing law that Bysiewicz gave.
“I’m inclined to agree with you,” Sheldon said.
As the head of a large state agency, Bysiewicz is more like a Chief Executive Officer of a company than an attorney, Gersten opined.
Daniel J. Krisch, one of Bysiewicz’s attorney’s, countered that she’s more like the managing partner in a law firm.
He said it’s true they only gave the court a few examples of her legal work, but the court should infer that she did this on a regular basis.
Krisch said being engaged in the active practice of law is more than a percentage of time spent actually practicing, and it’s more than being just member in good standing with the Connecticut Bar.
He said the Republicans have thrown out a bunch of “red herrings” in this case, including the assumption that in order to practice there must be an established lawyer-client relationship. He said no retainer, conflicts check, or privilege needs to exist for someone to practice law.
“We’re not claiming when the Secretary of the State publishes a brochure for all the local election officials that that’s the active practice of law,” Krisch said. He said it’s the nature of the practice she engaged in while she was Secretary of the State. He said letters she wrote to election officials and constituents “clearly implies knowledge of the law.”
He said the judge shouldn’t be considering the motivation of why she wrote the letter, but rather that she did it.
However, Krisch admitted that the statutory argument was not their strongest argument. The hearing will resume Tuesday afternoon and Judge Sheldon is expected hear constitutional arguments in the case.