AG candidates weigh in on Tong qualifications

At least one attorney questions whether Tong has the courtroom trial experience

New Haven - Democratic endorsed Attorney General candidate Representative William Tong (D-Stamford) says he is more than qualified to be the state’s top lawyer after 18 years as a commercial litigator.

However, at least one attorney and blogger questions whether Tong has the courtroom trial experience to met the qualifications of the state statute.

Glastonbury attorney Ryan McKeen wrote a post Monday night on his blog aconnecticutlawblog.com asking if Tong meets the requirements. He says he could find only one case that Tong took to verdict, a federal case in Bridgeport. McKeen’s 2010 blog post questioning then Attorney General candidate Susan Bysiewicz eventually led to a Supreme Court ruling she was ineligible to run. He says Tong’s vague answers surrounding his trial experience doesn’t add up.

“A trial is a very, very specific thing. There are transcripts. There are records. There are procedures. There are evidentiary rules. It is an actual battle in a court room,” said McKeen. “If you asked me ‘have you given an opening statement? Yes, I have and here's the case and here’s the transcript. “Have you handled witnesses? Yes, I have. I think for an actual trial attorney this is a relatively low bar and what I would want to see actual documented proof of involvement.”

In an exclusive interview with News 8, Tong defended his resume and courtroom experience by saying he’s worked “dozens and dozens” of cases in his career. He says most of his cases are settled before going to a jury or verdict. He says he’s taken two cases in recent years to verdict – the federal case in Bridgeport and a Superior Court case in New Britain. He argues the trial starts well before opening statements or cross examinations.

“They’re high stakes litigation. These cases take years and years to develop and they rarely go to trial and when they do go to trial they rarely go to verdict but all along way these cases are heavily litigated from depositions to motions to dismiss to motions for summary judgement to trials to verdict,” said Tong.

Now, other Attorney General candidates are reacting to his interview.

Former US Attorney and Democratic opponent Chris Mattei:

As the chief of the public corruption and financial fraud unit in the US Attorney's office, I fought for the people of Connecticut each and every day, taking on corrupt public officials, getting guns off the streets, advocating for our seniors, and protecting women from domestic abuse.

Democratic opponent State Senator Paul Doyle:

"With 27 years of general practice experience, I am very confident that I can satisfy the requirements of the statute. I will let my opponents speak to their credentials."

Republican endorsed candidate Sue Hatfield:

William should spend a day in the trenches in one of the many state courts around Connecticut.  The realty is is when an attorney is on trial, it means just that - a trial before a judge or jury where evidence is entered into the record.  The everyday trials do exist and remain the cornerstone of our judicial system here in Connecticut.  I am shocked that he thinks otherwise.  Among attorneys, the level of trial experience is often how many trials have you handled --  to verdict.  Many settle but the experienced attorneys have tried several cases to verdict.   

The next attorney general should have experience not as a brief writer, arguing motions, handling just one opening statement, or serving as a junior trial team member.  The next AG should have experience as lead counsel in a trial - calling the shots, making the tough strategic decisions, examining the witnesses.   That's the necessary solid trial practice that I bring to the table and will allow me to effectively oversee the office.”

Republican opponent John Shaban:

 “A trial starts when you call the first witness and that’s the rule. If you look at all of the requirements, I’m the only Republican candidate that meets them.”

The primary for Attorney General is on August 14th.

More Stories

Storm Team 8 Weather Headlines

Latest Connecticut Headlines

Video Center