AG opinion brings no clarity to Bysiewicz

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal issued a legal opinion today that does nothing to diminish the questions surrounding Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz’s qualifications for attorney general.

Blumenthal said that a state law requiring that the state attorney general have “at least 10 years’ active practice of law” is constitutional, but he declined to clarify the meaning of “active practice.”

The opinion is a blow to Bysiewicz, who shifted from an exploratory campaign for governor to one for attorney general after Blumenthal announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate. She has been a lawyer for more than 20 years, but she appears to fall short of the active-practice standard unless her years as secretary of the state are counted.

Without a court weighing in, Democrats cannot be certain that Bysiewicz could serve if they nominate her. Blumenthal said Bysiewicz’ only source of clarity must be a declaratory ruling from a court.

“This office will not have the last word. It must come from a court,” he said.

Bysiewicz saw the opinion as no obstacle to her candidacy and said she had no intention of seeking a declaratory ruling from a court. She said she will continue her candidacy.

“This is not a legal issue. This is a political issue, one for the voters to decide,” she said.

Bysiewicz said the opinion did not undermine her claim that her service as secretary of the state counts as active practice, because the office employs lawyers under her supervision. It said active practice can include “rendering legal services” to a branch of government, but it did not conclude whether Bysiewicz’s responsibilities constituted rendering legal services.

One of her rivals for the Democratic nomination quickly issued a statement saying that Bysiewicz needs to resolve the question of her qualifications.

“The people of Connecticut deserve clarification of Susan’s legal status as a candidate for Attorney General,” said George Jepsen, the former Senate majority leader. “It falls on her to take appropriate steps to resolve the question of her qualifications.”

Republican State Chairman Chris Healy agreed.

Of Blumenthal, he said, “He’s raised serious legal issues about Susan Bysiewicz’s ability to be qualified for this job. Any normal, coherent reading of the law, she s not qualified. She doesn’t have the years.”