The Connecticut Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz does not meet the minimum statutory qualifications to serve as attorney general.

The ruling ends the Bysiewicz campaign for attorney general just four days before the Democratic State Convention, apparently throwing the nomination to the remaining Democrat in the race, George Jepsen.

The court overturned Superior Court Judge Michael R. Sheldon, who found that Bysiewicz’s duties as secretary of the state could be considered the practice of law, giving her the minimum 10 years required under state law to hold the office of attorney general.

bysiewicz file photo

Susan Bysiewicz

“I am tremendously disappointed with the court’s decision overturning Judge Sheldon’s ruling and I strongly disagree with the decision both on the eligibility and the constitutionality issue,” Bysiewicz said in an emailed statement. “However, I do respect the rule of law and will abide by it.”

Bysiewicz did not address her political future or whether she would make a last-minute effort to be re-nominated as secretary of the state.

The Connecticut Republican Party had appealed Sheldon’s ruling.

“The paucity of evidence to support her case was pretty convincing,” Eliot Gersten, the attorney for the state Republican Party, said after the decision. Gersten and the state party had appealed Sheldon’s decision, because Bysiewicz’s duties as the state’s chief elections official for the past 12 years did not meet the “active practice” standard.

One of Bysiewicz’s lawyers, Daniel J. Krisch, said the secretary could file a motion asking the high court to reconsider its ruling, but added that was “very unlikely.” Krisch declined further comment beyond adding “only that we’re disappointed with the decision.”

Bysiewicz had initiated the legal challenge, seeking a declaratory ruling that she either met the 10-year requirement or that it was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court also rejected the argument that the 10-year requirement was unconstitutional. Sheldon had reached the same conclusion in his decision, but because the case had been appealed to the high court, Bysiewicz was entitled to argue the Constitutional question for a second time.

The seven-member court offered no explanation for its ruling, which came following 45 minutes of oral arguments and just over an hour of closed-door deliberations. Justice Flemming L. Norcott Jr., who presided over the hearing in the absence of Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, said a written decision would be issued later.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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