A federal court judge refused to issue an injunction against state Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s (D-East Elmhurst) expulsion Friday, sending the Queens legislator and his lawyers scrambling to appeal the ruling and gather petition signatures as the March 16 special election approaches.
“The March 16 special election furthers the goals of Plaintiffs’ current application to protect the voters of the 13th Senatorial District more effectively than judicial intervention,” Judge William Pauley wrote in a memo Friday.
Monserrate, who had hoped an injunction would enable him to participate in the next Senate session Feb. 22, was left pondering his next move.
“We respectfully disagree with Judge Pauley’s decision,” said Monserrate’s attorney Norman Siegel, noting they were strongly considering an appeal of the ruling. “Expelling a sitting senator without specific standards and adequate process opens the door to arbitrary and unfettered government decisions that violate the rights of duly elected officials and their constituencies.”
Attorney Henry Greenberg, of Andrew Cuomo’s office, called Monserrate’s claims that the ouster was beyond the Senate’s authority and violated his constituents’ civil rights “breathtaking.”
“The plaintiffs are arguing boldly that the New York State Legislature, of all legislatures in the country, is powerless to expel a legislator they deem unfit to serve,” he said during a hearing in Manhattan federal court Thursday.
In the meantime, Monserrate’s people have started gathering petition signatures to get him on the March ballot, Siegel said, though he was not sure Monserrate would even be allowed on the ballot.
In 1989, Israel Ruiz, a state senator from the Bronx, was convicted of a felony for falsifying information on a loan application. He resigned before the Senate could expel him, but then put his name on the ballot for the special election to fill his seat.
After his petitions were challenged, the appellate division of the state Supreme Court ruled that Ruiz was not eligible to re-take the seat because of his conviction.
Monserrate, who was convicted of misdemeanor assault for recklessly injuring his girlfriend after a December 2008 fight in his apartment, faces a challenge from state Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights), the chosen candidate of the Queens Democratic Party.
“Now more than ever we need a strong voice in the state Senate and Jose Peralta will be a senator we can be proud of,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), chairman of the Queens Democrats.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cn
©2010 Community News Group
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