A bill that would have simplified the qualifications for service as Connecticut’s attorney general has failed for the second straight year. The measure became officially dead Wednesday at midnight, when the 2012 legislative session adjourned without the Senate or House ever bringing it up for a vote.
Informally called the “Bysiewicz Bill,” it grew out of Democrat Susan Bysiewicz’s unsuccessful effort to win her party’s 2010 nomination for attorney general. The bill would have set the requirement for attorney general simply as 10 years’ admission to the Connecticut bar as a lawyer. That would have been a change from the current, 115-year-old requirement that a person have at least 10 years’ experience in the “active practice” of law in Connecticut.
In 2010, the state Supreme Court blocked Bysiewicz’s attorney general campaign effort by ruling her ineligible for the office. It ruled that the vague requirement for 10 years’ “active practice” means “at least some experience litigating cases in court.” Bysiewicz had been a lawyer more than 10 years but had not tried a case in court.
Democratic proponents of the “Bysiewicz Bill” this year never overcame Republicans’ criticism that the proposed change would render meaningless the legal qualifications required to serve as attorney general. If all a person had to do was pass the bar exam and then just pay the annual fees to maintain a law license for 10 years, he or she could do some job that is completely unrelated to the law and still become attorney general, the critics said.
Rep. Gerald M. Fox III, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the legislative judiciary committee, said Wednesday night that no one could agree on new wording this year. Each time language was proposed to describe the quality or quantity of legal work that an attorney general candidate needs to have done, it seemed to open up a further risk for future legal challenges to a candidate’s eligibility for the office, Fox said.
“I’m still hopeful that we cab get something through next year,” Fox said.
The next election for state attorney general is in 2014.
Bysiewicz is now seeking the Democratic nomination for this year’s U.S. Senate nomination. Her Democratic rival in 2010, former state Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen, went on to win the election and now is state attorney general.