Why Connecticut’s Attorney General Must Have 10 Years Litigation Experience

by Ryan McKeen

For this post, I’m going to assume that the statute specifying the qualifications for Attorney General is constitutional. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.  That question will have to be decided by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Here’s the relevant text of the statute:

The Attorney General shall be an elector of this state and an attorney at law of at least ten years’ active practice at the bar of this state.  Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 3-124

Much of the debate in recent months has focused on the words “active practice,” but that may miss the point or at least part of the point.

Perhaps the more critical words are “at the bar of this state.”

General principles of statutory interpretation require every word in a statute be given meaning where possible.  “At the bar” could be referring to someone licensed to practice law or it could be referring to the physical bar in the courtroom.

The statute uses the phrase “attorney at law.” To be an attorney at law in Connecticut, one must be licensed to practice law.

Bysiewicz is making the argument that “active practice” simply means licensed to practice law.

If all the legislature wanted was for the Attorney General to maintain a law license for 10 years, there would have been no need for them to add the phrase “at the bar.” Those words mean the legislature wanted something more. The most logical reading is that the legislature wanted someone who appears in court — which makes sense. The Attorney General is a litigator. I’ve been in court and seen Attorney General Blumenthal argue a case.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of Bysiewicz v. DiNardo. Lots of things can happen, but it wouldn’t surprise this blogger if the outcome of the case hinges on the interpretation of the words “at the bar” and not the phrase “active practice.”

It is illogical to read three different clauses in the statute to all mean “licensed to practice”.

If the court reads the statute the same way that I do (which isn’t a given), then Ms. Bysiewicz’s fate hinges on whether or not the statute is unconstitutional.

7 thoughts on “Why Connecticut’s Attorney General Must Have 10 Years Litigation Experience

  1. Adam

    From non legal prospective the reason AG needs the 10 years experience is you have to have “10,000-Hour Rule”, as Malcolm Gladwell said in his book the Outliers, the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. So ten years of practicing law will qualify you the “10,000-Hour Rule”.

  2. Adam

    Ryan,

    I’m surprise that two lawyers helped her the response she send you.

    “21 Q Now, on January 13th there was a posting on a
    22 website that questioned your qualifications for
    23 governor — or for attorney general. Do you recall
    24 that?
    25 A Which posting are you referring to?
    Brandon Smith Reporting
    33
    1 Q I’m referring to one from a fellow named
    2 Ryan?
    3 A Yes.
    4 Q Okay. And you drafted a response to Ryan?
    5 A I would assume we’re talking about Ryan
    6 McKeen.
    7 Q Okay. Don’t ever have to assume anything.
    8 If you don’t know who I’m talking about feel free to
    9 let me know?
    10 A Would you be talking about Ryan McKeen.
    11 Q I believe that’s his name. Okay. And you in
    12 fact drafted a response to Mr. McKeen?
    13 A I did.
    14 Q And you were assisted in that response by two
    15 attorneys?
    16 A I believe so.
    17 Q Okay. And do you recall the names of those
    18 two attorneys?
    19 A May I have a moment with my counsel, please?
    20 Q Of course. Going off the record.
    21 THE VIDEOGRAPHER: Off the record,
    22 10:50.
    23
    24 (Recess: 10:50 am to 10:56 am.)”

  3. Adam

    Ryan,
    I did quick “search and count” on how many times your name came up on the transcript (717 pages) that was released today and here are the results.

    Ryan = 13
    Mckeen = 39
    Ryan Mckeen = 9
    Total = 61 times

  4. Former City and Town Clerk

    The Hartford Courant reports today:
    “Bysiewicz testified that David Killian, an aide in her office who serves as her driver, did some of the legal research for Bysiewicz’s written response to Ryan McKeen, the author of an Internet blog who first raised questions about her qualifications for attorney general.”

    Her driver?

  5. Adam

    I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know what is definition of “Active practice of law” is, but if my doctor closes his office and goes fishing for ten years and then comes back and says you need heart surgery and he is going to perform the surgery I would run away from him because I know for a fact that medical technology changes every year and unless he takes refresher course and works in the medical field for a while I wouldn’t let him perform the heart surgery. Also I’m sure the law changes every year too.

    “Q And are you indicating, likewise, if the
    individual who graduated Duke law, got admitted to the
    Connecticut bar, practiced for four or five years, and
    then went to go sing in a rock and roll band, that
    person’s engaged in the active practice of law; is that
    correct?
    A Was that person admitted to the Connecticut
    bar?
    Q Yes, ma’am.
    A The answer is yes.
    Q Okay. How about the individual who graduated
    Duke law school, got admitted to Connecticut, became a
    member of the Connecticut bar, and then decided to
    close the doors of his office, maintain his Connecticut
    bar membership and go fishing every day for ten years.
    Would you consider that person to be engaged in the
    active practice of law during the time period he went
    fishing?
    A Yes.
    Q So is it your testimony today that as long as
    someone is an active member — strike that is a dues
    paying member of the Connecticut bar, that’s engaged in
    the active practice of law?”

  6. Adam

    I’m sorry here is the answer to the last question.

    “A If they are admitted to the Connecticut bar,
    then they are engaged in the practice of law”

  7. Pingback: On The Bysiewicz Decision: I Was Right | A Connecticut Law Blog

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