WE THE PEOPLE OF NEW YORK, INC
Holding Government Accountable to the Rule of Law
For Immediate Release
Contact: Judith Whitmore
Director – WTP-NY
WTP-NY APPEALS CON CON LAWSUIT
TO 3RD DEPARTMENT APPELLATE COURT TODAY
ON MATTER OF DELEGATE ELIGIBILITY
ALBANY, NEW YORK – January 23, 2015 — In 1997, Robert Schulz and a group of citizens representing every County in the state, assembled the first Monday of every month from April to November in the LOB. They judiciously evaluated the performance of the government in keeping with the New York State Constitution. They hired a court reporter who made a record of everything that was discussed. The group regarded the Constitution with kid gloves, honoring its original intent and trying to make sense of the 240 “piecemeal” Amendments that had been made to the document since 1938, through recommendations by the Legislature to the people, via voting by ballot.
The work of this group was intended for their elected Delegate representatives who would attend the NY State Constitutional Convention. However, that Convention never took place. The people voted “no” to it when it was put before them on the ballot, as is done every 20 years. They voted “no” in large part because the issue of Delegate Eligibility was a real concern.
In 1967, Delegates to the NY State Constitution were members of the legislature, judiciary and executive branches of the government, as well as lobbyists, attorneys and others closely associated with the work of the government. The New York State Constitution is meant to govern their behavior. It is the ultimate conflict of interest for anyone associated with government to evaluate the Rule Book governing their own behavior. Yet, no one has done anything about it. The history of this issue is filled with fiasco.
Schulz tried in 1997. He took it to Court, but was told by the Judge that to be successful in addressing the issue, he would have to identify everyone he considered would be in a position of a conflict of interest. But Judge, I’d have to identify everyone in the government or associated with it, he proclaimed.
Schulz wasn’t the only one who knew that the NY State Constitution needed house-cleaning or that the Delegate Eligibility issue was integral to any State Con Con ever being held again. Andrew Cuomo made it a central part of his campaign platform for Governor in 2010, raising the idea of a true “People’s Constitution Convention” and promising delegate reform. He was jumping on the tailcoats of legislators who in 2009 attempted early Bills on this subject. A host of academic, political and business leaders led by Bill Samuels, Gerald Benjamin and Brian Kolb , formed a bi-partisan task force effort Effective NY to educate New Yorkers about these concerns. It seemed like everyone was on the same page, for once.
Bob Schulz came back around in 2012 after 15 years of waiting – now five years before the next possible date (2017) when the government will be required to put the question of a Con Con on the ballot for a vote. While five years seems forever to some, in the world of court procedures and appeals, it is a spit in the bucket. Schulz filed what may be the first Class Action lawsuit against the entire NY State Government, along with all lobbyists and paid political party employees and others associated with government business, asking the State Supreme Court in Albany to declare that (in a nut shell) no one governed by the State Constitution could be a Delegate at any future constitutional convention.
The Courts dismissed the case, saying it was too soon to discuss the issue and especially in light of the fact that it was not certain a Con Con would be convened at all. Quoting the LAW, Schulz shot back and argued that it was timely to be looking at the issue of Delegate Selection well in advance of any Con Con that would definitely be brought for a vote in 2017(according to the State Constitution), if the Legislature did not advance the need for a vote sooner. His thinking is logical and his lawsuit is timely. People have the right to know who is eligible far in advance of any vote, which will mean the difference in how it turns out. A People’s Con Con is the only direct opportunity unaligned citizens have to evaluate the performance of their government and consider the contents of the State Constitution. If the deck is stacked with those associated with government, they will control both of the two pathways allotted for constitutional change.
As is his way and also his Right, Schulz is exhausting his administrative and constitutional rights, and is now filing an Appeal with the 3rd Department – Appellate Division of the Unified Court System. The Court System has not let us down in terms of helping time to pass: It’s 2015 and now we are literally a blink from 2017. Having been identified as a defendant in the lawsuit, Governor Cuomo has not raised any attention to his own early desires for a “People’s Constitutional Convention” nor the matter of delegate selection reform. He could have joined Minority Leader Brian Kolb who filed a noble Affidavit with Schulz in opposition to the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Cuomo could stun the state by turning around and agreeing with the Schulz campaign to get things right, but that would take an illumined leader wanting to restore the Constitution to its rightful place. Instead, he had the AG ask the lower Court to dismiss the case.
Robert Schulz files the Appeal trusting the Appellate Division will step up and clear the way for a proper Con Con in New York State – one attended by Delegates who are ordinary, non-aligned citizens, earnest to evaluate the performance of their government and the Constitution meant to govern their behavior. Such an opportunity would restore the power to the people where it is meant to reside in the first place and which will do much to reset the foundation for government in New York where the rule of whim would have no sustained power over the Rule of Law.
This one rightful change would go far in increasing transparency, accountability and ethics and put an end to the seemingly out of control government.