Friday, August 21, 2009

Lt. Governor Question Still Merits Court Consideration

Yesterday, an appellate panel ruled that Governor Paterson’s appointment of Richard Ravitch to the office of lieutenant governor violated state law. At the conclusion of the decision, the panel stated that “this matter is one of great public import and ought to be resolved finally and expeditiously by the Court of Appeals.”

In a statement responding to the ruling, Dean Skelos said that if the governor appealed the decision to the court, he would certainly receive the same verdict – a statement that Capitol Confidential interpreted to mean that such an appeal would be futile.

But how should we define futility? Whether or not the Court of Appeals would rule the same way as the panel, a decisive ruling from the court would still have value. As we’ve written before, a ruling on the case would provide valuable precedent in the event that a court is asked to rule on a similar appointment in the future. The panel that ruled yesterday would seem to agree.

For his part, Paterson seems to be confused about the law. A story about the ruling in today’s New York Times reports that Paterson is toying with the idea of having the legislature vote to confirm Ravitch to the post. This brings section 41 of the Public Officers Law, pertaining to vacancies to be filled by the legislature, into the fray. Unfortunately for Paterson, though, section 41 explicitly states that the legislature may only vote to fill a vacancy in the office of comptroller or attorney general.

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