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New York’s Highest Court Upholds Paterson’s Appointment of Lieutenant Governor

The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded a New York State Court of Appeals ruling upholding Gov. David A. Paterson’s authority to appoint Richard Ravitch lieutenant governor. The NYCLU had filed an amicus brief with the Court of Appeals defending the governor’s appointment upon the ground that the legislative deadlock in the Senate deprived New Yorkers of their right to a republican form of government and that the appointment operated to end the deadlock and to restore representative democracy.

The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded a New York State Court of Appeals ruling upholding Gov. David A. Paterson’s authority to appoint Richard Ravitch lieutenant governor. The NYCLU had filed an amicus brief with the Court of Appeals defending the governor’s appointment upon the ground that the legislative deadlock in the Senate deprived New Yorkers of their right to a republican form of government and that the appointment operated to end the deadlock and to restore representative democracy.

“We applaud the court for issuing a decision that respects New Yorkers’ constitutional right to a functioning legislature,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “The court has ruled that the governor acted lawfully to provide New Yorkers the government to which they are entitled.”

In a 4-3 decision issued today, the state’s highest court reversed two lower state courts that had ruled against the Paterson, who appointed Ravitch in July to fill the then-vacant post of lieutenant governor. State Sens. Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, and Pedro Espada Jr., D-Bronx, filed a lawsuit in Nassau County to block the appointment.

The NYCLU’s brief in Skelos v. Paterson argued that the constitutional right to a republican form of government embraces the promise of a functioning legislature. During the month preceding the Ravitch appointment, the New York State Senate stopped functioning. The appointment helped break the stalemate and restore representative democracy to the state’s voters and taxpayers.

Paterson had argued that Ravitch’s appointment was authorized by the Public Officers Law, which allows the governor to fill vacancies in elective offices. The NYCLU brief offered an alternative argument for sustaining the governor’s position that rested upon the federal constitutional promise of representative democracy and functioning legislatures in each state.

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