Testimony ends in Bysiewcz qualification case

A Superior Court judge refused to rule Thursday that Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz was unqualified to run for attorney general, reserving judgment until after final arguments next week.

Judge Michael R. Sheldon rejected a motion by the Republican Party that Bysiewicz, a Democrat, had failed to prove she met the minimum statutory requirements over two days of testimony.

His ruling came on a day when Bysiewicz’s attorney, Wesley Horton, accused Eliot Gersten, the GOP’s lawyer, of subjecting her to a cross-examination intended to embarrass Bysiewicz, not elicit evidence.

“He is trying to stage for the press, not the court,” Horton said. “It’s outrageous, your honor.”

Gersten replied that the only lawyer who had held a press conference in the case was Horton.

Bysiewicz has sued her own office, seeking a declaratory ruling that she has 10 years of active practice in Connecticut, a standard she cannot meet unless her work as secretary of the state is included. The Republican Party was invited to intervene.

Sheldon must decide if Bysiewicz has 10 years of “active practice at the bar” in Connecticut and if “at the bar” means trial work. Bysiewicz also has challenged the constitutionality of the law requiring a decade of practice, since the state constitution requires only that the attorney general be a voter.

Bysiewicz testified Wednesday that she practices law “each and every day.”

On Thursday, Gersten asked her to prove it. He picked random days from her office calendar and demanded she identify some legal task performed on the date in question.

Bysiewicz could not recall any legal chores on July 11, 2006. Ditto for May 20, 2002.

How about Sept. 28, 2004?

“Not on Sept. 28, 2004, no,” Bysiewicz replied.

Horton jumped to his feet to object.

“This is now random day number six!” Horton said.

Sheldon eventually nudged Gersten to try another tack, suggesting that most people could not recall their activities on long-ago days picked at random.

Bysiewicz did no better when Gersten focused on the last two weeks in March.

“No, but I can tell you one on April 12,” Bysiewicz said.

Gersten asked that she be directed to answer his question.

Sheldon told him, “You’re beating the same drum.”

Bysiewicz, whose present job does not require her to be an attorney, testified that she is practicing law every time she testifies before the legislature, advises local election officials or consuls with lawyers on her staff.

Gersten asked a series of detailed questions about Bysiewicz’s interactions with her staff, exasperating Horton. But Gersten said the questions were relevant.

“I think I can establish she is the client,” not the lawyer, in her dealings with attorneys in her office, Gersten told the judge.

Bysiewicz has acknowledged in her testimony she has no courtroom experience. She was a corporate attorney in private practice, not a litigator.

“There are many types of lawyers, sir,” Bysiewicz told Gersten. “Approximately only 7 percent are litigators.”