Federal Judge Tosses McGreevey Suit; County Superior Court to Review Case
A lawsuit brought against Gov. James E. McGreevey by two Princeton lawyers seeking a special gubernatorial election was dismissed by a federal judge last Wednesday.
Judge Garrett E. Brown Jr. ruled that a vacancy was not created in the executive seat when the governor announced August 12 that he would resign effective November 15. Lawyers Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer argued that last month's announcement was as good as a resignation, and because it occurred before September 2, should have necessitated a special election.
But the dismissal has not deterred the lawyers from taking other legal avenues.
They have refiled their action in state Superior Court in hopes of having the law tilt in their favor.
"We are pursuing our remedy in state court and we continue to believe that the constitution clearly provides a vacancy occurs when the resignation is announced not when the governor actually leaves office," Mr. Mayer said.
Mr. Mayer, a former Independent on Township Committee in the mid-1990s, added that he and Mr. Afran would take their case to the state Supreme Court, "if that's what's required."
"The judges in this state need to uphold the right of voters," he asserted.
The latest an elected official can vacate a seat without forcing a November election is September 2, or 60 days before election day.
Without an election, executive power will be passed over to Senate President Richard Codey, a Democrat.
Call it what you will, but the two Princeton lawyers maintain that they are not playing party politics.
At a news conference last week before the Rotary Club of Princeton, Mr. Afran said that if he and Mr. Mayer are successful in their pursuits, thus causing a special election, he would not seek the state executive office.
Mr. Mayer was not as definitive, saying that he had "not considered" running.
Both lawyers have run campaigns on the Green Party ticket in past elections. Mr. Afran was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and Mr. Mayer ran for Congress in the 12th District in 2002.
Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, chair of the Democratic State Committee, was unavailable for comment at press time due to a postponement of legislative action Monday, but Gov. McGreevey's office has cited the need for a smooth executive transition as the reason he intends to stick with the November 15 departure date.
Gov. McGreevey announced his resignation last month in a news conference where he revealed that he had had an extramarital affair with a man.