The state’s constitutional requirements to run for statewide office do not trump legislation mandating that the attorney general be a qualified lawyer, the Supreme Court has ruled.
On Friday, the state’s high court on Friday released its full decision in the case of Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, whom the court declared in May wasn't qualified to run for attorney general this election cycle.
Bysiewicz had sued her own office, arguing that her service as secretary of the state should count toward a statutory requirement that an attorney general have 10-years active practice as a lawyer.
The high court found it did not. It said the Legislature clearly intended that the attorney general have some experience litigating cases in a courtroom.
"Because it is undisputed that the plaintiff has no experience representing persons in court, we must conclude that she does not meet the eligibility requirements of (the statute)," Justice Fleming L. Norcott Jr. wrote on behalf of the court.
The court also rejected Bysiewicz's claim that the 10-year requirement is unconstitutional, conflicting with the section of the state Constitution that says "every elector who has attained the age of eighteen years shall be eligible to any office in the state."
The court ruled that when lawmakers created the office of attorney general, they gave themselves the power to define its minimum qualifications.
"The alternative, namely that the legislature intended to make someone as young as 18 and, more importantly, a non-attorney, eligible for the office of attorney general is wholly implausible," Norcott wrote.
In January, she was seen as an early front-runner in the race for governor but switched to the attorney general's race after the incumbent, Richard Blumenthal, announced he would seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Christopher Dodd, who is retiring.
After the high court issued its preliminary ruling in May, Bysiewicz decided not to seek re-election or any other office this year.
"I strongly disagree with the reasoning of the Supreme Court," she said in a statement Friday. "However, I respect the decision and I've moved on."