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Judge Orders Senate To Convene as One Group

Albany Supreme Court Justice Joseph C. Teresi issued a writ of mandamus against all 62 members of the state Senate yesterday compelling them to convene as one group at the same time in a special session called by Governor David A. Paterson. The governor had sought court intervention after arguing that senators locked in a stalemate for political control of the chamber since June 8 were routinely violating his calls for special sessions by having one 31-member block gavel in and gavel out of session without passing bills, followed by the other 31-senator faction doing the same thing. Neither side has had a quorum. Justice Teresi, ruling from the bench, decided that for the Senate to “convene” means to “come into session as one group,” pursuant to the rules of the Senate itself. Of the sequential meetings of the feuding blocs of senators—the two sides staged yet another such “session” yesterday—Justice Teresi said, “I will not be part of that fiction.” He also told lawyers for the Senate that he can understand how New Yorkers could come to view the three-week-long power struggle as an instance of senators placing “their own interests above those of others in the state” and see the conduct by senators as “rude, inconsiderate and egotistical.” John Casey, attorney for Senate Republicans, said a stay of Justice Teresi’s order would automatically go into effect when Mr. Casey files a notice of appeal first thing this morning with the Albany County Clerk’s office and the Appellate Division, Third Department. “A court cannot compel legislators to conduct their business,” Mr. Casey said. Peter Kiernan, Mr. Paterson’s counsel said he was “very pleased” by Justice Teresi’s ruling. “This is what the governor has been trying to achieve,” to get the Senate in the chamber to do business. Now a judge has ordered them “to do their duty,” Mr. Kiernan said. – Joel Stashenko

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