A federal judge today rejected a state lawmaker’s attempt to block his expulsion, saying the issue will be properly resolved by voters in a special election next month.
U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III said Hiram Monserrate’s Queens district senate seat will only be vacant for a few weeks because Gov. David A. Paterson immediately set a March 16 special election to replace the Democrat.
“The question of who should represent the 13th Senatorial District is one for the voters, not this court,” Pauley wrote.
The judge rejected arguments advanced by lawyers for Monserrate and several voters who sued the state after senators voted 53-8 last week to remove Monserrate because of a misdemeanor assault conviction. The lawyers argued that the voters were disenfranchised by his removal and that he was denied due process.
Pauley wrote that the special election furthers the goals of Monserrate’s lawsuit “more effectively than judicial intervention.”
His decision came on a request by Monserrate for a temporary order blocking his expulsion before the court hears more evidence.
Pauley noted in his opinion that no New York legislator had ever contested his expulsion and said Monserrate had little chance of success on claims that his was unconstitutional.
He said he based his decision on “the totality of the circumstances — the long history of the power to expel legislators, the limited use of the power, judicial approval of this type of restriction in the past, the brief interval before a new senator is chosen, and the gravity of Monserrate’s alleged conduct.”
Monserrate was convicted of a misdemeanor for dragging his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, through his apartment lobby on Dec. 19, 2008.
Stitches were necessary to repair a cut to Giraldo’s eye from a glass Monserrate was holding in his apartment. Both said afterward the cut was an accident and the hallway surveillance footage of him dragging her out was him taking her to the hospital.
At a nonjury trial, a judge acquitted the stocky former New York City policeman and councilman of felony assault — a conviction would have automatically cost him the Senate seat.
Norman Siegel, an attorney for Monserrate, said he was “giving strong consideration to filing an appeal.”