Bysiewicz to resolve her qualifications in court

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz intends to ask a court to clarify if she meets the minimum qualifications to run for attorney general, answering a question that threatens to derail her candidacy.

Bysiewicz will explain her plans at a press conference Thursday with Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and Wesley Horton, a lawyer who is an expert in state constitutional law. She will be seeking a declaratory ruling in Superior Court.

Word of plans for a press conference sparked rumors at midday that Bysiewicz was dropping out, but a source close her said she was in the race to stay.

Instead, she would seek a clarification from a court, as suggested by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Two weeks ago, Blumenthal said that a state law requiring that the attorney general have “at least 10 years’ active practice of law” is constitutional. He also said the term “active practice” requires more than simply being a member of the bar.

However, he said his office is unable to rule on specific situations, such as Bysiewicz’s. That prompted DiNardo to suggest that the party might seek a court’s clarification, saying that Democrats did not want to risk potentially nominating a candidate who could not hold the office.

The attorney general explicitly said he cannot assure Bysiewicz or the party that her candidacy would withstand a legal challenge.

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

Bysiewicz, a graduate of Yale University and the Duke University School of Law, 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.