Last month Governor Paterson’s team of lawyers were confident that, despite Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s cavils, Public Officers Law 43 made it perfectly Constitutional for the Governor to install Richard Ravitch as Lieutenant Governor. But Paterson’s team had rough sledding at a hearing yesterday on that issue.
Justice Thomas A. Dickerson told the Governor’s attorney, Kathleen Sullivan, that “There is simply no authority for your position — none.” Dickerson also asked what gave Ravitch a better claim to the Governorship than state senate president pro tem Malcolm Smith should Paterson die in office…
The New York Law Journal portrays the four-judge Appellate Division panel as “openly skeptical,” and they seemed leery of authorizing an appointed rather than an elected official to stand a heartbeat away from the Governorship. “The governor might resign, take another position, and then the state would be left with a governor never elected to anything,” said Justice Steven W. Fisher.
The suit was brought during the days of the Albany Coup by minority leader Dean Skelos and Pedro Espada Jr., the latter of whom, now majority leader, seems to have bowed out of the proceedings. Ravitch was previously cleared to serve as Lieutenant Governor but prohibited from presiding over the senate pending this decision — though that prior ruling did not mention his authority to succeed Governor Paterson in an emergency, which now appears to be the panel’s major concern.