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Press Releases

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

Contact: Brad Usher (c) 347.693.4640 (w) 212.490.9535 (f) 212.490.2151

 

***PRESS RELEASE***

 

JUDGE ALLOWS LEGISLATORS’ LAWSUIT AGAINST “THREE MEN” TO GO FORWARD

 

New York, NYToday, New York State Supreme Court Judge Jane S. Solomon ruled to allow for three complaints from the lawsuit against the “three men in a room” over dysfunctional legislative practices to move forward.  The complaints that were sustained include the unequal funding of member resources, unequal member items and abuses of messages of necessity.

 

In February, New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) and Assemblyman Tom Kirwan (R-Newburgh) sued Governor George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Senate, and the Assembly, challenging the constitutionality of various rules and practices that contribute to the Legislature’s dysfunction.  The plaintiffs are represented pro bono by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and its partner and former Counsel to Governor Mario M. Cuomo, Evan A. Davis. 

 

In her decision, Judge Solomon wrote, “this lawsuit addresses important issues central to the health of New York State’s government.  Studies and newspaper editorials describe New York’s Legislature as ‘dysfunctional,’ and as the worst state legislature in the country.”

 

“I am pleased that the court has recognized the importance of the issues addressed in our lawsuit, and that there is a role for the judiciary in addressing legislative dysfunction,” said Senator Liz Krueger.  “For years minority members and their constituents have suffered because of rules that discriminate against them.  Assemblymember Kirwan and I look forward to our day in court on the counts that have been allowed to proceed.  In the meantime, we plan to look carefully at Judge Solomon’s decision and explore our options regarding those complaints that were not sustained.”

 

The complaints that were upheld are the following:

 

·         Unequal funding of member support: Minority party legislators receive less funding than members of the majority party with equal responsibility for staff, constituent communication and other necessary expenses.  This argument hinges on the equal protection clause and indicates that the present rules undermine the ability of minority members to provide equal representation.

 

·         Unequal member items: Minority party members also receive less funding for “member items,” which are funds for legislator-initiated projects in their districts made available in violation of the constitutional appropriation requirement.  Once again, under the equal protection clause, minority members face discrimination when it comes to member items.

 

·         Abuse of messages of necessity: Although the Governor frequently invokes messages of necessity to pass legislation, thereby avoiding the State Constitution’s requirement that all bills be on the desks of all legislators at least three days before the vote, he does not personally sign the messages of necessity.  These messages are signed by an “autopen,” which encourages abuse by allowing their approval without the Governor’s direct involvement.

 

“My hope is that one day I will be a member of a State Legislature that views all of its members as equals regardless of political party,” concluded Senator Krueger.  “Judge Solomon’s decision today to allow this case to proceed could well be a historic step towards that goal.” 

 

 

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