By STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A legal challenge by Connecticut’s Republican attorney general
candidate over her opponent’s qualifications is unlikely to be resolved before Tuesday’s election, authorities said Friday.
Attorneys for Republican Martha Dean and Democrat George Jepsen, both of whom are lawyers, presented arguments Friday in Hartford Superior Court about whether Dean has the legal standing to pursue the case.
The hearing ended without a decision, and Judge Julia Aurigemma said she could not guarantee she would rule before Tuesday. Tuesday’s voting will not be affected.
Even if Aurigemma rules Monday in Dean’s favor to let the suit continue, another hearing on its claims would not be scheduled before the election.
Dean alleges Jepsen might not have enough experience litigating cases in a courtroom to run for attorney general, based on a definition released last week by the state Supreme Court in its decision last spring disqualifying Democrat Susan Bysiewicz from seeking the office.
Jepsen called Dean’s suit a last-minute election ploy meant to scare voters.
“There’s no way _ and Martha Dean knows it _ that you can file a lawsuit one week before the election and have it adjudicated on the merits like that in time,” he said. “It’s desperation, it’s frivolous and it’s political.”
Dean said the timing was based on the recent release of the Supreme Court’s decision, and that time and effort could have been saved if Jepsen were candid and transparent about his courtroom record.
`It is absurd that we have to go to court to get my opponent to tell voters exactly what experience he has had litigating and taking cases to trial over the last two decades,” Dean said.
Friday’s hearing did not focus on Dean’s questions over Jepsen’s qualifications, focusing only on arguments about Dean’s standing to bring the suit and whether it would be appropriate for a judge to intervene in an election by removing a name from the ballot.
Friday’s court action was the latest salvo in a race in which the candidates freely admit they do not see eye to eye on many policy issues, particularly the role of the attorney general’s office.
Dean, 51, a lawyer from Avon, ran unsuccessfully for attorney general against incumbent Richard Blumenthal in 2002. Jepsen, a former state Senate majority leader, replaced Blumenthal in the state Senate when he first was elected as attorney general in 1990.
A Suffolk University Poll released last week showed Jepsen leading Dean, 40 percent to 28 percent, among likely voters. Another 32 percent of voters were undecided.
Dean said that if elected, she will settle more legal disputes out of court and drop many of the office’s pending lawsuits.
“Some laws just aren’t clear enough to some businesses,” she said. “Once we educate them on the laws that are fair and clear-cut, there’ll be no need to continue the trial by press release practices of the office.”
Jepsen, 55, is seeking to continue the line of Democratic Connecticut attorneys general since 1959 and said he plans to act as a mediating activist. He also said he would use lawsuits as a last resort and would like to focus on consumer protection in environmental, energy and financial issues.
He also wants to lobby the legislature to grant the office more authority in cases of business and mortgage fraud.
“I’m in agreement with Dick that as attorney general, you’re not just there to simply be the lawyer for the government,” Jepsen said of Blumenthal. “You’re there to be a champion of the broader public interest and to protect the legal rights of Connecticut citizens.”
He also believes some of Dean’s views are too extreme for Connecticut, such as her statements that she supports gun training for children and the 1800s-era legal doctrine of nullification, which lets states reject federal laws they find unconstitutional.
Dean said despite some of her personal beliefs, she intends to uphold the laws of the state and “restore common sense” to the attorney general’s office.
Associated Press writer Everton Bailey Jr. contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)