A judge gave new life Wednesday to the campaign of Connecticut’s front-running but also on-the-run attorney general candidate, Susan Bysiewicz.
Superior Court Judge Michael Sheldon found in favor of Bysiewicz’s contention that she has the 10 years of legal practice to qualify as a candidate for attorney general.
In his decision released Wednesday, Sheldon found that Bysiewicz has “regularly drawn upon her skill and training as a Connecticut attorney to issue rulings, instructions and opinions concerning the administration of elections in this state.”
And she was using her legal skills in advocating for specific legislation. Sheldon found that the best example of this was her advocacy under the federal Help America Vote Act.
Click here to read the judge’s ruling.
“The plaintiff’s extensive efforts to ensure that our state fully and promptly complied with the Help America Vote Act is simply the best example of her protective legislative efforts in the public interest,” Sheldon wrote in the 90-page decision. “In the Court’s view, such legislative activities, as distinguished from many of her other significant efforts to improve state law, have involved the application of legal skill and training to the analysis of state statutes and the application of such analysis to a particular fact situation in order to ensure that the State, by enacting suitable legislation, would comply with federal mandates.”
But she was not practicing law when she held press conferences.
“However, because the practice of law invariably requires a factual analysis, it is difficult, although not impossible, to conceive of a situation where the format of a press conference would lend itself to dissemination to the giving of situation-specific legal advice,“ Sheldon wrote. “Here, however, the Court has found that the plaintiff failed to prove her claim.”
Bysiewicz is currently the secretary of the state. She’s looking to move up this year. First she ran for governor, then changed gears and ran for attorney general—only to learn later that she may not qualify under the law. That became the subject of this legal case, which could determine her political future.
The Republican Party, which intervened in the case, claims there may be enough in Sheldon’s ruling to appeal the decision.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said. “But this is a case of first impression by the judge and in reading the opinion he seems to concede some of our facts clearly opening the door for an appeal.”
“It’s still our contention that she’s not qualified,” Healy said.
Healy said they will reflect on the decision before deciding whether to pursue an appeal.
Since Sheldon found that Bysiewicz meets the 10 years of active practice under state statutes there was no need for him to look at the constitutional arguments made in the case.
“This is not just a victory for me. This is a victory for all of the voters of Connecticut who should have the choice to vote for who they want to vote for – whether it is Attorney General or any other office,” Bysiewicz said in a press release.
With the matter settled, Bysiewicz said she looks forward to the rest of the campaign.
While relieved to have this matter behind her, Bysiewicz said in a phone interview, that she believed the court would find in her favor. And even despite the questions raised about her qualifications, Bysiewicz maintained her strong delegate support.
If the Republicans appeal Bysiewicz said she believes she would prevail in a higher court too.
“I know how to win and I never give up – I didn’t give up on myself, and if you give me the chance to serve as Attorney General, I will never give up on you,” Bysiewicz said in an emailed statement.
“Any judge would be appropriately reluctant to throw someone off the ballot,” George Jepsen, one of Bysiewicz’s two Democratic opponents, said. “Ultimately in a democracy the voters decide who is most qualified – and that will be decided in the primary this August.”
Rep. Cam Staples, D-New Haven, is also vying for the Democratic nomination.