Friday, August 21, 2009
New York Governor David Paterson did not have the legal authority to appoint Richard Ravitch (or anyone, for that matter), as lieutenant governor in July, 2009:
Court says Ravitch appointment unlawful
CRAIN's NY, August 20, 2009 - 3:46 pm
(AP) - An appeals court has ruled that New York Gov. David Paterson's appointment of a lieutenant governor was unlawful, upholding a constitutional challenge brought by the state Senate's minority leader.
A Brooklyn-based appellate panel said in an opinion Thursday that no state law or constitutional provision allows the lieutenant governor's post to be filled by anything but an election.
The Democratic governor tapped longtime government adviser Richard Ravitch for the post on July 8 to break up a Senate leadership logjam and said state law allowed the appointment. Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos said the state constitution did not.
New York Appellate Court Says Paterson Can’t Appoint Ravitch
By Henry Goldman, Bloomberg.com
Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- New York Governor David Paterson didn’t have legal authority to appoint a lieutenant governor last month, a state Appellate Court ruled.
A four-judge panel of the Second Judicial Department Appellate Division in Brooklyn unanimously affirmed a Nassau Country Supreme Court trial judge’s preliminary injunction barring Paterson appointee Richard Ravitch from taking office.
A state statute authorizing the governor to fill vacant elected positions “cannot be constitutionally applied with respect to a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor,” the court held.
The justices ruled that Republican Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, of Rockville Centre, Long Island, had legal standing when he sued to block Paterson’s July 8 appointment of Ravitch. They remanded the case to Supreme Court Judge William LaMarca, who granted the July 22 preliminary injunction prohibiting Ravitch from exercising any powers of the office.
“Because we recognize that this matter is one of great public import and ought to be resolved finally and expeditiously by the Court of Appeals, we dispense with the need for the governor to move for leave to appeal,” the justices wrote in an opinion signed by all.
The state has lacked a lieutenant governor, who serves as Senate president empowered to break tie votes, since March 2008 when Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal and Paterson, a Democrat, became governor.
Paterson appointed Ravitch, a real estate developer and former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in July to help break a month-long 31-31 deadlock that blocked the Senate from enacting legislation.
In the absence of a lieutenant governor, Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Malcolm Smith of Queens is next in line to become governor. He has submitted a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Paterson’s position.
Skelos and Democratic Majority Leader Pedro Espada of the Bronx, who bolted from his party on June 8 to create the partisan stalemate, challenged the appointment. Espada, who returned to the Democrats’ caucus July 9, a day after Ravitch’s appointment, and became majority leader, removed himself from participating in the lawsuit earlier this week.
To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Goldman in New York City Hall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: August 20, 2009 15:54 EDT