A Few Thoughts and An Invitation To Susan Bysiewicz

by Ryan McKeen

Prior to hitting “post”, I thought my post on Susan Bysiewicz would generate some buzz. It did. I’ve been taken aback by how much buzz it generated and how fast it generated it. It’s not easy being engaged in the “active practice of law” and responding to the media.  This blog is my hobby. I don’t make any money from it. I enjoy doing it but I am a lawyer first and a blogger second. My priorities are clear.  Addressing the needs of my clients in my ever growing practice comes before all else. Writing motions and responding to clients are more important to me than appearing on the local news.

A few thoughts:

1. I’m extending an open invitation to Susan Bysiewicz to post a response on this blog. This much is owed to her. I’ll give her all of the space she wants. I’ll keep her post up for a week and I won’t edit it. I’ll give her this forum to make her case. She is welcome to post whatever she wants on this site whenever she wants to post it.

2. I don’t know what it means to be engaged in “the active practice of law”. The practice of law means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. My day looks nothing like the day of an in-house counsel to an insurance company. My day is also vastly different than the day of an attorney who doesn’t spend anytime in court.  I’m no more of an expert on this subject than I was before I wrote the post.

3. My post was not a personal attack on Susan Bysiewicz though she’s probably none too  happy with me.  If I were her, I wouldn’t be happy with me and  that’s fine. This is a democracy and it’s important for lawyers to ask questions of those seeking elected office. I didn’t write the law but it exists. It’s fair to examine the credentials of a person who is seeking to become the top lawyer in the State. If nothing else the discussion is healthy.

4. The genesis of the post was this post. A pretty standard post for this site. After posting, I got a message from Gideon at A Public Defender asking if all of the candidates were qualified. I didn’t know. Since I’m not a fan of American Idol, I spent last night trying to answer Gideon’s question. I stumbled on Susan Bysiewicz’s biography on the Secretary of State’s website and that prompted the post. That’s it.

5. Who is Gideon? Since I’m not telling you who he is, I’ll tell you who he’s not. He’s not a candidate for Attorney General. He is an attorney engaged in the active practice of law. Gideon is a long time friend of this blog. He runs A Public Defender which is one of the better legal blogs that you’ll find on the net. I’ve met him in person and I swear to you that he’s not George Jepsen or that legislator from the shore who I’ve never heard of and don’t care to google.  As bloggers, we commonly ask each other questions about each other’s posts. This was no different.

6. It is offensive to suggest that someone planted something on this blog. This site is above board. What you see is what you get. These thoughts are mine.

7. It will be interesting to see if the legislature defines “active practice at the bar of this state” this session.

8. Check out the comments on the post below. Lots of good stuff. Feel free to join the discussion.

9. These posts are mine. My firm does not exercise any editorial control over what is posted here. For better and for worse the buck stops with me.

10. This has been and will always be a law blog and not a political blog. This issue presents interesting questions of both law and fact. It’s the kind of issue that a law blog should deal with.

11. The post should come as no surprise to long time readers of this site. This blog is now in its third year. In that time, I’ve amassed over 400 posts on all sorts of topics. The only common theme is my curiosity. I look at the world and ask how does the law impact our everyday lives.  Nothing more and nothing less.

Have a great weekend.

17 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts and An Invitation To Susan Bysiewicz

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with #6. It really irked me that you were asked to swear that Jepsen wasn’t behind this or that someone “didn’t put you up to this”. What, bloggers can’t come up with ideas on their own? Or maybe it’s just that MSM was jealous they didn’t notice this first.

    And no, I am not George Jepsen. Or Blumenthal. Or Rell.

  2. This line of questioning reminds me of the issues raised during Jerry Brown’s last run for AG of CA and like those, seems to be a search for a reason — any reason at all — where none exists, to get an otherwise strong candidate out of the race.
    I think Ms. Bysiewicz’ experience is adequate under the Practice Book definition, as was pointed out in the comments below.

  3. It may offend you that someone would suggest this was “planted” on your blog, but it’s disappointing that your blog was used to send this rumor from zero to sixty without anyone having contacted the bar association, the courts, or Bysiewicz herself (she’s actually extremely easy to get a hold of) to see whether this question has been asked and answered already (it surely must have come up when Lieberman became AG with 5 years of non-elected legal practice), or whether the Secretary did any legal work while serving as a part-time legislator.

    I expect the idiots at the Courant not to follow up on a story beyond what’s fed to them, but the great advantage of blogs is that they’re run by people who have some expertise and can conclusively chase this stuff down. Just because you’re not a “plant” doesn’t mean you acted responsibly.

  4. I’m a lawyer. I stated the law. I’m not a reporter. There’s no need to contact the bar association, the courts, or her campaign. My post wasn’t about Joe Lieberman.

    I asked a fair question. That’s all I did. I’m not an investigative reporter.

    If you read the post you would see that I gave Ms. Bysiewicz every benefit of the doubt and will continue to do so.

  5. No, your post wasn’t about Lieberman — but it was about a situation with a precedent, and you were more interested in creating a buzz than in finding out the truth of the matter. It shouldn’t be out of bounds to suggest that you might call the bar association — you’re a member of the bar!

    I wrote to share my disappointment because I think blogs should be better than newspapers, and that people do it because they care about what they write.

  6. You know nothing about what you’re writing about. The bar association is no more qualified to answer this question than I am. As far as interested in finding out the truth, there is an open invitation for Ms. Bysiewicz to respond to this issue.

  7. I thought the bar association had some kind of authority, which I guess is incorrect. I’m not an attorney, which (as you pointed out) is obvious.

    Your reporting has been cited across the state, and is lent credence by your status as an attorney — but you’ve decided not to deploy your expertise to inform your writing in this case. As someone who’s been followed links to your site a few times in the past, I know this isn’t usually the case. I hope that when you say you were “taken aback” by the whirlwind response to your posting, it means that the invitation for additional information will come before the decision to publish the post the next time you think something will “generate some buzz.”

    To be honest, I did something very similar to what you did here a couple years ago to Bysiewicz — I sprung a somewhat hostile question on her at a public meeting about the new voting machines back in 2007. After the meeting, she asked for my information, and called me three times in the following weeks to make sure that my concerns were answered. So while I probably would not be inclined to think very highly of Bysiewicz, I was quite favorably impressed by her willingness to reach out in response to criticism. At the same time, after that exchange, I thought differently about what it means to give someone the benefit of the doubt — that you can ask a fair question in an irresponsible way.

    The Churchill line that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on” comes to mind. What you did wasn’t a lie, but then again, Sir Winston didn’t live in an era where journalists were such manipulative scumbags.

  8. Talk about shooting the messenger! I’ve been following this story since you posted it, for several reasons:

    a. I had no idea the AG position required 10+ years of active practice. Now I know.

    b. Now that I think of it, it makes a great deal of sense to have that requirement. From now on, I will consider that when deciding how to cast my vote. Thank you for the info.

    c. Your post is serving an important educational purpose. Now that it is being picked up, more voters will be aware of this issue, and will be more informed as a result.

    In the end, it may not matter to the campaign. Before this, I would have been happy to cast my vote for her as either Gov. or AG. In fact, I very well may still vote for her. But criticizing a blogger for essentially doing us all a good service is plainly pathetic. He never said she wasn’t qualified — he simply pointed out a requirement and asked whether her background fulfilled it.

  9. Hmmm – Joe Lieberman’s bio states that he was a name partner in a law firm (Lieberman, Segaloff and Wolfson) from 1972 to 1983. So, I think that, like many, he continued to work in private practice while in the legislature? The legislature is intended to be part time. I don’t believe Susan was in private practice while serving in the legislature. Clearly, you don’t need to be a lawyer to serve as Secretary of State, and I don’t think the mere fact that you hold a law degree suddenly turns it into “the active practice of law at the bar.” Those words are very different from “member in good standing” or “hold a license”, which are passive. Different words have to be given different meaning so to have “ten years active practice at the bar” has to mean something different, something more.

  10. (Followed the link from Gideon’s site). This blog is well written and well thought out and quite responsible.

    But I am surprised — I really thought Gideon was Jodi Rell.

  11. I’ve long thought that Gideon is Jodi Rell’s conscience and A Public Defender is a medium that provides her an outlet to atone for her policies. Frequently, I imagine Governor Rell writing posts for A Public Defender from the Governor’s Mansion.

  12. The point, which you hit upon, is that these words aren’t defined anywhere, meaning they’re open to interpretation. It’s going to take someone filing a suit to bar her from running to get a court to explore what they mean. Let’s look at basic statutory interpretation: is the statute unambiguous? Clearly, no.

    So let’s look at it in context of other statutes and an eye to the legislative history. Therein lies the answer, I think. If the legislative history is silent, then I think a court will have a very difficult time.

    Active practice could just as easily mean someone not suspended, retired, disbarred, etc. As long as you’re licensed as an attorney, you’re good to go. They could have said “actively practicing”.

    If you look at attorneys’ statuses on the judicial website, for the vast majority, it lists them as “active”.

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