High court rules against Menendez recall effort

The State Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling that would have required the Secretary of State to allow a recall effort of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.

The court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not allow the states to recall a U.S. Senator.

“The New Jersey Supreme Court today ruled that this fringe effort to recall a leader in the fight against special interests is definitively unconstitutional,” Menendez spokesman Afshin Mohamadi said in a statement issued soon after the ruling. “It is a resounding victory against the Tea Party’s  Washington-based right-wing corporate backers, who are waging economic war on the middle class.”

The case stems from a 2009 effort by the Tea Party affiliated Committee to Recall Robert Menendez to begin a recall effort against the Demcorat.  The group reportedly opposed Menendez’s support of health care reform as well as other positions taken by the state’s junior senator. The committee filed its intent to begin the recall process with then Secretary of State Nina Wells, who acting on the advice of the attorney general, rejected the notice.

An appellate court later ordered Wells to accept the notice.  In April, Menendez petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case.

In it’s ruling, the high court essentially sided with the federal constitution over the state’s constitution, ruling that while the state document allows for the recall of local and state officials, it does not govern federal elected officials.

“The Court therefore concludes that the provisions of the (Uniform Recall Election Law) and the Recall Amendment pertaining to U.S. Senators are invalid, but otherwise will allow the laws to remain in effect as they relate to state and local officials,” the ruling states.

Justices Rabner, Long, LaVecchia and Albin ruled in favor of vacating the lower court opinion, while Justices Rivera-Soto and Hoens voted to affirm the lower court ruling and allow the recall effort.

Had the recall been allowed to proceed, the Tea Party group would have needed signatures from 25 percent of the electorate – in this case about 1.3 million of New Jersey’s more than five million voters – to proceed.

Reached Thursday, Sussex County Tea Party founder and president of  Recall NJ Inc.  Roseann Salanitri said the group plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We anticipated this decision and we are looking forward to bringing it before the US Supreme Court and the opportunity of opening the doors of recall for the entire nation,” Salanitri said.  “In this ruling the judges struck down our constitution, our New Jersey legislators, the will of the people and George Washington.  This ruling supports Governor (Chris) Christie’s decision to reform our New Jersey Supreme Court in order to restore our constitution.”

Despite the group’s intent, the Menendez camp was confident the issue was decided once and for all.

“Even if this Tea Party organization and their national right-wing benefactors appeal this decision, the chances that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn a ruling upholding the Constitution are close to zero,” Mohamadi said.

High court rules against Menendez recall effort