Will good lawyering ruin Governor Chris Christie’s scheme for an October special election?


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Will good lawyering ruin Governor Chris Christie's scheme for an October special election? Or will the New Jersey Supreme Court simply roll over and give him what he wants? Groups claim to have found 'smoking gun' to force Christie to move U.S. Senate election to November:

Two liberal groups say they’ve found a “smoking gun” in a century-old
state law that could force Gov. Chris Christie to schedule the general
election in November.

New Jersey Citizen Action and New Jersey Communities United in a
brief today, told the state Supreme Court today that the state’s 1915
law on filling U.S. Senate vacancies said that unless the vacancy
occurred shortly before the next general election, it should be filled
at the closest general election.

The purpose, according to drafters of the original law, was to “avoid
the expenses of special elections for United States Senators and

The brief is meant to aid the case of Democrats who are challenging
Christie’s decision to call a special election in October to fill the
late US. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-N.J.) seat. The Democrats, led by
Somerset County Democratic Chairwoman Peg Schaffer, want the election
held in November to coincide with the gubernatorial race.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action,
called the finding a “smoking gun” that means “you can’t do just what
the governor’s doing.”

The law, according to a lawyer for the groups, is the predecessor of
two more recent statutes that conflict on how to fill vacancies. As
such, it shows what the Legislature meant the more recent laws to mean.

“You have to look to legislative intent,” said the lawyer, Steven
Weissman. “The clearest expression in legislative intent here is the
1915 bill which said they wanted to avoid the expenses of special
election. That’s why they drafted this language.”

The liberal groups’ brief says that the 1915 law made clear that the
governor should only be able to call a special election if the Senate
vacancy occurs within 70 days of the next scheduled general election
because the Legislature wanted to save money.

“The Legislature intended for a replacement of the vacancy at the
next general election as a mandatory requirement – not a discretionary
one,” the brief reads
. “…The Legislature never intended the governor to
have the discretion to call a special election when filling the seat at
the next general election is eminently feasible.”

The case is Grillo v. Christie, A-4648-12T2, Superior Court
of New Jersey, Appellate Division (Trenton).

The briefs in the special election matter Grillo v. Christie are now available.
6.17.13 Grillo's NOM, Brief
6.17.13 Amici NJ Black Issues Convention et al
6.17.13 Amici NJ Citizen Action and NJ Communities United
6.17.13 Amicus NJ Appleseed papers

6.18.13 Christie's brief
6.18.13 Notice of Motion to File an Overlength Brief
6.18.13 Redacted Appendix