Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bysiewicz, For What?

Kevin Rennie, an ex-legislator (Republican) and Courant columnist, continues to trouble the reining kakistocracy – this time Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz.

Noting that the Secretary of State recently switched races from governor to attorney general, Rennie credits lawyer Ryan McKeen, who blogs at A Connecticut Law Blog, with upsetting the Bysiewicz apple cart: It was McKeen who first discovered that Bysiewicz had not “practiced law” for ten years, a statutory requirement of aspiring attorneys general.

Last Thursday, Bysiewicz maintained she had supervised lawyers in her role as Secretary of State, claiming this sufficed to satisfy the statutory provision.

“ She is wrong,” Rennie commented.

“The secretary of the state is not ‘a Connecticut state employee employed as an attorney for the state,’ as she certified each year when she claimed an exemption from paying the state Attorney Occupation Tax. Plenty of state officials oversee lawyers in their offices — that doesn't mean they are practicing law. Most of those supervising officials are not lawyers themselves and would not (could not) claim to be practicing law.

“State statutes set forth the duties of the secretary of the state. They say nothing about being a lawyer for the state. This development delighted many Democrats who have Bysiewicz's footprints on their heads. It also has rivals and detractors thinking she may not be as formidable a candidate if she didn't anticipate McKeen's question about 10 years of practice.

“Adding to Bysiewicz's bad week, a federal court refused to consider her amicus brief in support of the state's campaign finance law. She filed it too late. Turns out Bysiewicz doesn't like the law enough to participate in it, despite years of banging on about making the public pay for campaigns. She may have to take a break from fundraising to figure out again what office to seek.”
Rennie did not note that Bysiewicz has asked, though not formally, for an advisory opinion on the matter from partisan Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is hanging on to his office while he runs for senator.

Statutorily, the attorney general – who has either sued or threatened to sue everyone from fruit loop cereal makers to owners of wood burning furnaces -- is supposed to advise state agencies on legal matters. This is a legal matter, and both Secretary of State, as the title implies, and the attorney general’s office are state agencies. In the past, Blumenthal has been very swift in offering advisory opinions to legislators and other state officials on matters of law. But in this case, caution, for once, has caught up with him.

When asked by the media the same question put to him by the Secretary of State, Blumenthal remarked cryptically that Bysiewicz had not at the time of the inquiry "formally" requested an opinion. If Bysiewicz, having second thoughts, declines the invitation, any other office holder should request it of him.

Over at one of the most popular blog sites in the state, Connecticut Local Politics, bloggers were issuing advisory opinions on Bysiewicz’s querry left and right, so to speak.

Someone who styles himself “Fuzzy Dunlop” – not his real name, one hopes – pointed to Bysiewicz’s thin resume:

“The Attorney General is the state’s chief civil litigator and our chief law enforcement officer. SB’s resume is a little thin on things that make her qualified for this. During her time with both White and Case and Robinson Cole, she was a TRANSACTIONAL business attorney, not a litigator (concededly good experience for someone who wanted to be SoS). I doubt SB stepped foot in court more than a handful of times, if at all. Also, she has no background whatsoever in law enforcement (Dick Blumenthal was at least US Attorney, and was a civil litigator for an extremely aggressive law firm…. even her brother in law, Ross Garber… who’s dreams of running SB dashed by jumping in first without looking, is currently a litigator and personally represented the Rowland administration in court, arguing before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals).

“If the voter’s posted a job for Attorney General of the State of Connecticut in the 'Jobs' section of the Connecticut Law Tribune, then based on her experience, SB wouldn’t even get an interview."
 “I cannot understand the argument that AG is somehow a better fit for her than governor. Just because she has a law degree from a prestigious school doesn’t make her qualified to be the Attorney General.
“FINAL NOTE: Imagine you’re interviewing someone, and during the interview, they accidentally let it slip that if you hire them, they don’t plan on staying for longer than about a year or so before looking for a job with a bigger and better firm…. would you hire them? Because I sure as hell wouldn’t.”
FINAL, FINAL NOTE: And as if this business were not messy enough, the Journal Inquirer has noticed that Article XV, Section 3 of the state constitution provides: “Every elector who has attained the age of eighteen years shall be eligible to any office in the state, but no person who has not attained the age of eighteen shall be eligible therefor, except in cases provided for in this constitution.” No provision of the Constitution mentions a limit to service as attorney general congruent with the statutory limit cited above – which, therefore, appears to be unconstitutional.

10 comments:

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

>>... “Fuzzy Dunlop” – not his real name

What??

Are you sure?

mccommas said...

How interesting!

Fuzzy Dunlop said...

Don,
Are we certain that she checked the "a Connecticut state employee employed as an attorney for the state," box on the occupational tax form? Her campaign said that's what she checked, but has someone actually seen the form she filed? Is it FOIAble?

Also, with the legal job market in shambles, if it turns out that the statutory qualifications for Attorney General are unconstitutional, I wonder how many unemployed lawyers just out of law school we can expect to see vie for the job now that there's no experience required *snicker snicker*.

Don Pesci said...

Fuzzy,

Don't know if the info you mention is personnel related; on a chance, I would think it can be disclosed as an FOI matter. You can always call them; sometimes they answer the phone.

I'm rather hoping -- because there is a little part of my heart that is on good terms with anarchy -- that ALL recently graduated lawyers would apply for the job, which I think should hooped around by limiting statutes to render it less noxious, and perhaps even kill it.

Don Pesci said...

Maybe we can make lawyering an elective office.

Fuzzy Dunlop said...

Don,
I just suggested something similar over on CT Local, but in the spirit of anarchy, someone should find a lawyer who's only been admitted to practice for under 10 years who would be willing to run for AG (like I said, there's a lot of unemployed attorneys out there who might be attracted to the $110,000 salary). The reason that I'm seriously suggesting this, is it would force our courts to review the issue... here's how it works.

Johnny Justgraduated got admitted to the bar last year. He tries to get on the ballot for Attorney General. Now, SOS has to either certify him, thereby acknowledging that the statutory qualifications are unconstitutional, or NOT certify him, thereby following the statutory qualifications.


The situation is win-win for those of us nerds who are entertained by this sort of high constitutional drama...

If SOS chooses not to certify Johnny Justgraduated on the basis that he is not statutorily qualified, he has standing to challenge the statute, giving our Supreme Court the opportunity to review the statute (which can really go either way for Susan... I'd call it a toss up on whether they interpret "active practice" in a manner favorable for her). If she DOES certify Johnny Justgraduated, then, well, you might see even NON lawyers start running for the office.

My dream matchup for AG now? Ryan McKeen (WNEC School of Law 05') v. Bysiewicz!

Don Pesci said...

Wickedly funny and just plain wicked. But it will get to the point.

Anonymous said...

The 10 years law conflicts with the CT Constitution

mccommas said...

Anonymous

What is she going to do?

Sue? She has a problem on her hands.

Don Pesci said...

mccommas,

Yes, and the problem can only be settled in court, whatever Blumenthal decides.