‘Bysiewicz Bill’ Advances; Changes the Qualifications to be AG

For the second year in a row, the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee has approved the so-called “Bysiewicz Bill” that changes the qualifications to be attorney general in Connecticut. The bill is so named because of the fiasco that was Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz’ bid to run for attorney general in 2010. The state Supreme Court knocked her off the ballot after a challenge by the Republican Party. The proposed change requires a candidate for AG be admitted to the Connecticut bar for 10 years.
Current law requires candidates for attorney general have 10 years experience in the “active practice of law.” To be governor of Connecticut, one must simply be 30 years old and a resident and registered voter on the day the election held. “The supreme executive power of the state shall be vested in the governor. No person who is not an elector of the state, and who has not arrived at the age of thirty years, shall be eligible,” the Connecticut Constitution says.
Why should the requirements for attorney general be harder to meet than those for governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer and comptroller? And what makes us think than an AG with five years experience can’t be better than one with ten?
The Connecticut Supreme Court complicated the matter with its determination that to qualify as having “active practice of law,” a candidate must have courtroom experience. That’s not written in the Constitution, nor is it in the law that requires the ten years. In essence, the court made it up.
Indeed, in the concurring opinion written by Appellate Court Justice Thomas Bishop (acting in the higher court) joined by Justice Richard Palmer, made it clear that the state Supreme Court should not have gone so far as to impose “courtroom experience” as a necessity for qualifying for AG.
At the very core of the issue is, why are the voters of the state of Connecticut not entitled to decide for themselves who is or isn’t qualified to be AG? The electorate chose Bill ONeill for governor—he once sold insurance, was in the Korean War and then ran a tavern. Governor O’Neill’s story is the epitome of “Let the voters decide!” Yet somehow we have a requirement that the AG have experience interpreted by another branch of government. Let’s not forget that, until recently, probate judges in Connecticut didn’t even have to be lawyers!