Can You Sue Yourself? We'll Soon Find Out

It’s not unusual for an attorney to challenge the constitutionality of a law. But,according to the Associated Press, Connecticut's Secretary of State, Susan Bysiewicz, is charting new territory: she’s a plaintiff in a lawsuit against her own office. In effect, she’s suing herself.

Ms. Bysiewicz, according to the AP, is a Democratic candidate for state attorney general. She argues that it's unconstitutional to require attorney general candidates to have at least 10 years in active legal practice. While she has served 11 years as Secretary of State, and prior to that, six years as a corporate lawyer, the Associated Press says she has never tried a case – and hasn’t set foot in a courtroom since law school.

In his Connecticut Law Blog, Ryan McKeen points out the clearly stated provision of the law: “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. Section 3-124.

According to reports, Wesley Horton, Bysiewicz’s attorney, said that Bysiewicz is both qualified and eligible to practice law in court, although she chose to do it in other forums. Bysiewicz is a Duke University School of Law graduate who has been a member of the Connecticut Bar since 1986.

Legally, we often act in multiple capacities, such as personally/fiduciary or personally/corporate officer. Suing oneself is rare because it is usually absurd. For one thing, it is a fundamental principle that the courts will only resolve real controversies because courts do not give advisory opinions. For that, you get your own lawyer and take your chances. In fact, that’s why Ms. Bysiewicz has to sue herself instead of just asking if it’s OK.

As always, there are exceptions. This case may be one of the exceptions. We’ll see. All legal eyes will be on Hartford this week, as will political ones.

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