After being foiled by the snowstorm, Hiram Monserrate and his lawyer headed to court Thursday – in an effort to block the Queens Democrat's expulsion from the State Senate.
Monserrate and Civil Rights Attorney Norman Siegel filed a challenge in Manhattan federal court, questioning the legality of the Senate's vote to remove Monserrate and to prevent lawmakers from holding a special election to fill his now-vacant Senate seat.
On Tuesday night, the Senate voted 53-8 to expel Monserrate following his conviction of misdemeanor assault of his girlfriend.
Siegel said only the voters in Queens have the right to remove their senator from office.
"The case involves substantial questions concerning what a constitutional democracy is all about,” he said. “And it's about the right of the voters to decide who they want to represent them. It's about the rule of law; it's about the due process of law."
“What is occurring here is much greater than just me, it's much greater than me," said Monserrate. "And ultimately, I've always been very clear that the proper course should be that the voters decide. If the voters of my district decide that they want me to represent them or not, I would respect, obviously, that decision."
Senator Eric Schneiderman, who chaired the committee that investigated the Monserrate case, defended the move Wednesday night on NY1’s political program “Inside City Hall.” The Manhattan lawmaker denied that the decision was politically motivated.
"At the end of the day, someday, he's got to take a look in the mirror. The person who's responsible for his situation is Hiram Monserrate,” Schneiderman said. “The rest of us didn't assault someone. The rest of us didn't lie about it. It's a tragic situation, but the fact that he continues to portray himself as the victim isn't helping him, isn't helping us and won't help him in court."
Schneiderman says the Senate has the legal right to "police its own house."
A hearing on the case is scheduled for next Thursday, and according to Monserrate's lawyers, the judge said Thursday he will decide whether to reinstate Monserrate temporarily before the Senate returns to session on February 22.
Governor David Paterson has called a special election for the seat on March 16.
Assemblyman Jose Peralta, a frontrunner in the race, has the backing of the Queens County Democratic Party leaders and on Thursday picked up the endorsement of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.