There is an interesting ruling out of Connecticut where the Supreme Court has issued a rare ruling barring a candidate from running for Attorney General of the state. Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz will be taken off the ballot because she lacks the minimum ten years of legal experience under state law.
The Connecticut Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Bysiewicz’s service as Secretary of State does not count as legal experience. This would appear to hand the nomination to George Jepsen, her opponent, just days before the state convention.
The Supreme Court overturned the ruling of Superior Court Judge Michael R. Sheldon, who felt that work as Secretary of State should count.
Notably, Bysiewicz also challenged the 10-year requirement as unconstitutional, which (not surprisingly) failed. This is akin to suing herself as Secretary of State.
Bysiewicz appears to be far less creative in claiming past experience than her predecessor Richard Blumenthal.
She is a graduate of Yale College and Duke University School of Law. She served as the State Representative from 1992 to 1998.
Frankly, while I do not believe the requirement is unconstitutional, I am sympathetic to her claim. It is hard to define what constitutes legal experience. Many lawyers use their degrees as part of their work in business or government. It seems to me that such questions should be left to the voters and the campaign to hash out.
For the full story, click here.
Kudos: ABA Journal.
12 thoughts on “Connecticut Supreme Court Removes Secretary of State From Ballot for Attorney General For Lack of Legal Experience”
I agree, the ‘typical’ voter is not always the best judge of a lot of things (me included!)but often we are the last to know what is going on. Part of what I count on in order for my life to work is to be able to have some sense of faith and trust in the government officials to do their job w/me and other citizens in mind…but you don’t need to look too far afield these days to see that that just doesn’t work anymore.
What to do? Part of what I was trying to say is that working on a non-state, non-corporate level will put professionals back in an integral position when going for those positions of power that are ultimately and essentially meant to be weilded for the benefit of THE PEOPLE. If you only know what works for business…how can you protect people from business? What is the essential question that a government official asks of their self? Is it who am I here for? Or who do I sacrifice next? Corporations may be the new bottom line citizen in the eyes of SCOTUS, but we the people were here first…and are still the legs you stand on…
@Woosty’s still a Cat
I get where your coming from, with the experience, but does the federal offices need the same requirement?
A person doesn’t need to be a lawyer to be a judge, but then they have this law?!?!
I’d love to be able to count on voters to know who they are voting for, but it’s very apparent that this is a lost hope!
Another thing. Maybe the CT Supremes wanted to protect themselves from having to deal with another justice who needed to be taught litigation 101. Steep learning curve.
I think this is a good decision. How are laypeople voters able to assess the legal abilities/qualifications of candidates? They can’t. Look at Texas where they elect judges-it’s a disaster. I don’t think being secretary of state provides the kind of “legal experience” required to be a state supreme court judge. Note that the statute just requires legal practice, not even litigation experience.
Now we can get into an argument as to what constitutes the “practice of law.” Look at Harriet Miers. She headed up a large law firm in Dallas. I practiced law in Dallas at the time (she was also the head of the Dallas Bar Association) and it was common knowledge that she was picked to head up the firm for PC reasons. After I left Dallas she became the head of the state bar, also for PC reasons. When it came to analyzing her legal practice for her ludicrous sup. ct. nomination, there was virtually nothing she had done which would constitute the practice of law. Two or three cases. A friend of mine worked against her on one and thought she did a good job, he was barraged by the press. Harriet was an administrator when she worked for Bush. These people don’t practice law even though they’re partners in law firms.
Blouise: “And then there’s Lieberman … I mean, the Connecticut voters made that decision, right?”
But the bar is set so much lower for candidates to the Senate…:-)
And then there’s Lieberman … I mean, the Connecticut voters made that decision, right?
” It is hard to define what constitutes legal experience. Many lawyers use their degrees as part of their work in business or government. It seems to me that such questions should be left to the voters and the campaign to hash out.”
I am not a lawyer and I do not work in a field that a law degree is necessary to. That said, Kudos! to the Supreme Court of Ct. About 2 weeks ago, this blog published an article about law schools condensing the field of study to a 2 year degree. [or something along those lines…].and it stimulated a discussion about the inappropriateness of that move. These days everyone wants to start at the top and disregarde those whose valuable experience is deemed ‘unecessary’ to decision making. We now have an environment rife with lack of common sense, understanding, or true worth. I am fast becoming a proponent of ‘Ye Olde School of Apprenticeship’.
Why is 10 years of actual practice of law seen as a stumbling block to becoming any legal anything at the STATE LEVEL? As a voter don’t I deserve to have the confidence that experience inspires?
A State Attny General without 10 years of pure unmitigated law practice at a NON CORPORATE level is like a Surgeon fresh out of school, going to work for the AMA, who has had the stellar experience of having dissected a frog, well, watched a video of a frog being dissected, in 1970(when everyone HAD to touch the dam things…)well, you get the picture….
As a citizen….I deserve better that.
Apparently, the statute requires ten years of “active practice” to qualify as a candidate. I think the Connecticut Supreme Court’s hands were tied by the language of the legislation. It was, after all, a unanimous opinion. Bad public policy; good law.
Voters. Too many damn laws in place to start with. But then again when you try and legislate common sense, you are bound to come up with stupid. Then thats what gets elected.
As a Nutmegger, I take pride in that Connecticut is a progressive state. However, there are times such as this when I wonder if the higher ups just fell off the turnip truck. In this case, our Supreme Court did.
I agree with the good Professor. It should be left up to us, the voters, whether we feel a candidate is qualified or not. In my mind, Bysiewicz is clearly qualified to run and serve as AG.
That is a bad law to begin with and this is a bad decision. The time she served as a State Rep and as Secretary of State should be more than sufficent. Prof. Turley is correct that this is a decision that should be left up to the voterss.
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