Rep. William Tong is the endorsed Democrat for Connecticut Attorney General in the 2018 election. He’s spent the past fifteen years of his professional career working for the firm of Finn Dixon & Herling LLP in Stamford. Before that, he spent time at a different law firm.
Those credentials, however, do not satisfy Ryan Mckeen, publisher of A Connecticut Law Blog, who raised similar concerns about Susan Bysiewicz in 2010.
Following the case of Dinardo v. Bysiewicz in the State Supreme Court, a standard of 10 years in the Connecticut Bar had to be met, in addition to time working on trials and in litigation. Tong has been a litigator for nearly two decades.
“For me it’s a bizarre niche academic issue but I think it’s a fair question to ask of someone seeking this office,” says McKeen when asked about his interest in this area of legal qualification.
McKeen wrote a post asking if Tong has ever, in fact, been involved in a trial in any capacity, insinuating that Tong has spent most of his legal career in a corporate setting, negotiating settlements and avoiding actual court proceedings.
He says, to this point, Tong’s answers have been unsatisfactory.
“What are these trials? What are these dockets? What are these cases? And what has your role been in these cases?”
Tong said Wednesday that he has been involved in, by his count, 23 federal cases and 30 state cases in Connecticut alone, which do not include the more than 400 matters he’s been involved with around the country.
“It appears to be an orchestrated smear campaign,” Tong says of McKeen’s criticism and skepticism. McKeen told NBC Connecticut he is a registered Democrat who supports Chris Mattei for the Office of Attorney General, one of Tong’s two primary opponents. The other opponent is Paul Doyle, a state senator who represents Wethersfield and Middletown.
Tong says his record is transparent and clearly makes him qualified to run for and hold the office of Attorney General.
“It is just absurd to think that before running for attorney general that I would not have vetted this, and double, and triple and quadruple checked this with a number of lawyers, which I did.”
Tong points to one example of a case in New Britain Superior Court in 2016 that he won. His client, an aerospace company, was looking for a judgment against another company from out of state. Tong says he handled the entire proceeding from start to finish up to the point when the other party was ruled to have failed to appear in court. Tong said he was ready the day of that ruling to make statements in a trial.
“It wasn’t like I went in there and Judge Wiese said, ‘you’re good.’ No, we spent a good amount of evidence talking about the evidence, talking about the documents that demonstrated my client’s entitlement in their claim and we got a judgment.”
McKeen isn’t sold on that example, saying if there was a trial there would have been either a bench trial or a jury present, and since the judgment was for a failure to appear, neither happened.
“At the very least, when you have somebody who is seeking the highest attorney’s office in the state they should be able to produce some proof of their work,” McKeen said.
Tong says the rumors about his legal background and professional qualifications were first spread in the hours leading up to his eventual endorsement from the state party, which he says, showed how ineffective they were.
“They tried to peddle this on the floor of the convention and nobody bought it then and I think by and large nobody is buying it now.”