February 18, 2010

PPOD February 18, 2010: Amicus

Today the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a brief indicating that the vote to boot Hiram Monserrate out of the Senate is unconstitutional and should be vacated.

Citing a number of cases, the NYCLU identifed a few reasons why they believe the vote was wrong; mostly it comes down to there being no rules defining grouns for expulsion, and instead they should have chosen censure (the slap on the wrist) instead.

I'm not surprised that the decision is being questioned, nor I'm not surprised that the NYCLU has filed the supporting brief. While they admit that Monserrate's behavior was "reprehensible" they can't support abridging the right of the people to vote for whoever they want, and to be represented by whoever gets the highest number of votes.

The problem is, Monserrate didn't slash his girlfriend's face until after he was elected. So, the ostensible will of the people - electing someone who had not been charged with or convicted of domestic violence - was abridged by the Senator himself.


The folks in the 13th district have been stuck with him for all this time - since December 2008 - with no recourse except to wait until November 2010 to vote him out. They can't recall him -- not an option in New York. He was convicted only of a misdemeanor, not a felony, so he couldn't automatically be thrown out under clearly defined rules, as the NYCLU's amicus brief notes. His district has to suffer through being represented by someone they most likely would NOT have voted for had his indiscression occured say, in October 2008, vs December 2008.

So, my pet peeve of the day is simply this: when we needed elected officials in Albany to do the right thing, the ethical thing, they tried - and may likely fail because they never defined any rules around ethics.

Sigh.