US appeals court rejects bid from expelled New York Senator convicted of assault

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A United States appeals court ruling upheld the expulsion of former New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate from the New York State Senate in a ruling on Friday. Monserrate had been found guilty in October of misdemeanor assault, in the criminal trial involving an alleged attack on his girlfriend Karla Giraldo. A U.S. federal judge had previously upheld the expulsion, in a ruling issued in February.

Hiram Monserrate in 2009
Image: Matt Ryan.

Monserrate was expelled from the New York State Senate on February 9 by a majority vote of his fellow senators. The result of the vote was 53 to 8 in favor of expulsion.

In the lower U.S. District court decision, federal judge William H. Pauley III denied a request to temporarily block the expulsion. A lawsuit had been filed by Monserrate, which had asked for a reversal of the former Senator's explusion and in addition sought a block on a March 16 special election for a replacement. The New York Civil Liberties Union supported Monserrate in the case. The former Senator argued that the act of being expelled from the Senate was not appropriate, as he claimed it violated due process.

Judge Pauley ruled, "the question of who should represent the 13th Senatorial District is one for the voters, not for this court." The judge explained that the voting rights of the citizens of the district formerly represented by Monserrate would not be significantly negatively impacted, due to the proximity of the upcoming special election – scheduled for March 16. Monserrate has stated that he will run in the special election, and he is not prohibited from doing so.

Monserrate's opponents in the March 16 special election include Jose Peralta, a sitting member of the New York State Assembly and a Democrat, and Republican Robert Beltrani. According to WNYC, Monserrate has himself not received any official endorsements. Monserrate is running under a party name that he created, titled, "Yes We Can".

The district court's ruling determined that the expulsion by the New York State Senate was not inappropriate, stating, "the power of a body to determine the fitness of its members is embedded in American democracy." Judge Pauley noted, "Similar processes to discipline have long existed in deliberative bodies at all levels of government." New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued a statement February, in support of the ruling of the lower court. "We are gratified that the Court has confirmed our position that the Senate had the authority to expel Mr. Monserrate," said the Attorney General.

They imposed a different standard on me without due process and I'm confident the court will rectify the violation.

Hiram Monserrate

Prior to the ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejecting Monserrate's appeal, the former Senator voiced optimism about the impending decision, "They imposed a different standard on me without due process and I'm confident the court will rectify the violation."

We're naturally disappointed.

—Norman Siegel, attorney for Hiram Monserrate

In a statement given to the New York Daily News, Monserrate's attorney Norman Siegel said, "We're naturally disappointed. We'll have more to say when we read the opinion." The hearing on Friday before the U.S. Federal appeals court lasted approximately one hour. During the hearing, one of the appellate court judges commented that Monserrate was aware that what he had done was, "a crime, (and) you’re not supposed to do it."

Monserrate's misdemeanor assault conviction pertained to an incident where he dragged his girlfriend through the lobby while exiting his apartment building. He was acquitted by a judge of charges of felony assault. Felony conviction would have resulted in an immediate expulsion from the New York State Senate.

Monserrate is the first politician to be expelled from the New York State Senate in almost a century. He is a former New York City police officer. Prior to becoming a member of the New York State Senate, he was a city councilman. He became a member of the New York State Senate weeks after the alleged conflict with Giraldo, and was made chair of the committee overseeing consumer affairs. Along with Democrat Pedro Espada Jr., Monserrate started a shift in control of the Senate by aligning with the Republican Party.


  Learn more about Assault and Hiram Monserrate on Wikipedia.