Hiram Monserrate and NYCLU Get Day in Court; Ruling on Reinstatement Expected Today

monserrateout.jpg Despite appearances, ex-state-senator (pro tem?) Hiram Monserrate has not been abandoned by everyone. The New York Civil Liberties Union is standing with him in court, supporting his legal action to regain his senate seat, from which the senate expelled him on February 9th, on due process grounds ("it is a particular responsibility of the NYCLU to insist upon adherence to our most cherished values even in the face of an unpopular cause").

NYCLU even sent Norman Siegel as a friend of the court to Monserrate's hearing yesterday in Manhattan as counsel -- attorney general Andrew Cuomo's counsel, Henry Greenberg, appeared for the defense. The Times says Judge William H. Pauley "peppered" Monserrate's lawyers "with skeptical questions."

The NYCLU argued in its amicus curiae brief that "the power to nullify democratic choice must be narrowly construed," and the senate's expulsion "extends beyond the scope of any judicial determination and is unsupported by any law of general applicability."

A censure, NYCLU's Arthur Eisenberg argued, "could have provided a 'more narrowly tailored' vehicle to address the Senate's interests," but the "ad hoc, freewheeling nature of the Senate's punishment" goes too far, and even represents a Bill of Attainder against Monserrate.

In answer to the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, the defense maintained that Monserrate's attack on Katy Giraldo, for which he was convicted, violated the state's "zero tolerance policy" on domestic violence, and that his suit asked the court to "rule that a state legislature is powerless to protect itself from persons manifestly unfit to participate in the law making process," which they claimed was something "no other judicial body has done since the founding of this nation."

They also argued that the suit was "premised upon the false assumption that an elected office holder has a constitutionally protected interest in his seat. This is simply not the law."

The Auburn Citizen reports Monserrate was greeted by "three busloads of supporters" at his hearing. (He's had such visible support on other occasions, too, as well as the aid of a reputation management firm.)

A ruling is expected today.


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