Court ruling may be sought on Bysiewicz’s qualifications

With a legal cloud hanging over Susan Bysiewicz's candidacy for attorney general, the Democratic state chairwoman said Tuesday night she might ask a court to clarify Bysiewicz's status with a declaratory ruling.

Nancy DiNardo said that a legal opinion issued earlier by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal did not resolve whether Bysiewicz meets the statutory requirements for attorney general.

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Blumenthal

"I am concerned for the party that it does leave a question," DiNardo said.

Bysiewicz, the secretary of the state, said she had no plans to seek court clarification or to end her candidacy. Unlike DiNardo, she said she found Blumenthal's opinion to be "encouraging."

But 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.

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

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.

And that was no comfort to DiNardo.

"It is something I am concerned about," she said. "At this point, I do want to talk to Susan."

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

"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.

The opinion 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."

 

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