Qualifications for Connecticut AG may soon be loosened

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May 23, 2011


By David Godow

HARTFORD, Connecticut:

A law that would ease the requirements to become Connecticut's attorney general took another leap forward last week, passing through the House of Representatives by a vote of 91-51.[1] The so-called "Bysiewicz Bill," named for disqualified 2010 Attorney General candidate and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, would axe the requirement that aspiring attorneys general have ten years of "active practice" as an attorney under their belt before election.[2] It would require instead that candidates be admitted to the Connecticut Bar for ten years. Almost exactly a year ago, on May 18, 2010, the state's Supreme Court cut short Bysiewicz's campaign for the Democratic nomination, finding that she had practiced law actively for only six years.

The bill's supporters argue that it will "increase the pool of qualified candidates and reduce potential court challenges."[2] Opponents counter that stringent experience requirements are helpful given the attorney general's responsibility to represent "four million clients" -- all the state's citizens.[2]

Connecticut's requirements are an outlier among New England state governments. Massachusetts, for instance, requires only that candidates for attorney general be 18 years old and a citizen of the United States for five years. Another neighbor, Rhode Island, requires only that prospective attorneys general be a "qualified elector for such office," i.e. a U.S. citizen and resident of the state. New York's demands of candidates are the strictest of any of Connecticut's neighbors, yet include no experience component.

The Bysiewicz Bill now moves on to the Senate, where supporters hope it will garner the same level of enthusiastic support. Most of the bill's opposition was centered among Republicans in the House, where they are outnumbered nearly two to one. Given the GOP's similar status in the Senate, it's likely that the bill will soon find its way to Governor Dan Malloy's desk.

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