We could have easily put a big top on the 2010 election cycle in Connecticut and called it a circus. Among the dancing bears and performing elephants was the race for state attorney general. (The Shad objects to the use of animals for entertainment and hence the circus metaphor.) But now a legislative committee is taking up a bill that would clarify things a bill but still doesn’t go far enough.
The current requirement—and the one that caused all the trouble—is that to be attorney general, one must have been engaged in “the active practice of law” for 10 years. “Active practice” is undefined. It’s not a constitutional requirement, it’s statutory. It’s also arbitrary and nonsensical.
Then-Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, who was leading in the polls in the race for governor, jumped to the AG race. It wasn’t unexplainable. She obviously had her eye on the 2012 US Senate race in which she is now running anyway. But the state Republican Party led by the very capable Chris Healy, filed suit saying Bysiewicz didn’t meet the 10-year requirement. The state Supreme Court agreed and Bysiewicz was bounced—just like that. Hey if you can’t beat ‘em, keep ‘em off the ballot altogether.
Eventual GOP nominee Martha Dean tried the same trick against Democratic nominee George Jepsen causing the normally even-keeled Jepsen to nearly lose it. Dean failed. Jepsen won. And the state is still stuck with the ridiculous requirement for future court battles.
The legislature’s judiciary committee will take up a bill that would change the requirement for AG to being admitted to the state bar “for a continuous period of 10 at least years prior to taking office.” The fact is, even this change is still arbitrary and inconsistent with “requirements” for other constitutional offices. Why 10 years? Why not 8 years? Or 15? What if some just-out-of-law-school wunderkind wants to run and would make the best attorney general ever? Nope, got to have those ten years. It’s ridiculous.
The only requirements for even the US presidency are age and to be native born. The office of state comptroller or state treasurer does not require any sort of financial experience. And in the real kicker—until recently, one didn’t even have to be a lawyer to be a probate judge in Connecticut. The bottom line is: The only requirement for attorney general should be that the person be chosen, in a fair election, by the voters.