Bad News for Connecticut Attorney General Candidate Bysiewicz

Published Wed, May 19 2010 9:41 AM

An interesting issue that has been percolating in Connecticut over the past several months came to a head yesterday. Yesterday, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz is not eligible to run for Attorney General since she does not meet Connecticut state law requirement that the Attorney General shall be an "attorney at law of at least ten years' active practice at the bar" of Connecticut. (Click here for the statute.) Bysiewicz, described as "a popular Democrat" by the New Haven Independent, originally ran for governor this year but later decided to run for Attorney General, a "fateful" decision says the Independent.

In what was described as "an unusual move without precedent in recent Connecticut political history," Bysiewicz originally filed suit in Connecticut Superior Court in February challenging the state law on grounds that her "11 years as Secretary of State qualifie[d] her because she says she is essentially running a public-interest law firm and regularly dispenses legal advice on the state's election laws." In addition, Bysiewicz argued that the "10-year requirement [was] unconstitutional under both the state and federal Constitutions." (According to her trial brief filed with the Superior Court, Bysiewicz was also in private practice for six years in the late 80's and early 90's.) In April, she got the Connecticut Superior Court judge to agree with her that her duties as Secretary of State qualified as the active practice of law. The Superior Judge did not address the constitutional arguments.

The Connecticut Republican Party immediately appealed to the Supreme Court where the court heard the case on an expedited basis on Tuesday before this weekend's Connecticut Democratic State Convention, where state Democrats will nominate the Party's candidate for Attorney General and other statewide races.

In a rare move, the state Supreme Court heard the argument and issued a ruling on the same day. Rick Hasen says, "[T]he last time I saw that was in an episode of L.A. Law."

While the court issued no opinion since it heard oral argument and decided the case on the same day, Ballot Access News' Richard Winger writes, "It appears that Bysiewicz lost on both arguments." Bysiewicz said she will not appeal the ruling. Ultimately, I don't believe there was a federal constitutional argument presented which probably helps explains why Bysiewicz won't try to go to the Supreme Court. I'm not even going to attempt to wade into an analysis of the state constitutional argument.

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