First Ever Recall Effort of a U.S. Senator Cleared by N.J. Court

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

    It has apparently never been done before, but a Tea Party group in New Jersey has won the first round in its effort to recall a U.S. Senator -- Democrat Robert Menendez.

    "We are loathe to strike down a component of our State's charter [Constitution] that fortifies the democratic role of our citizens," an Appeals Court panel ruled Wednesday morning.

    Tea Partiers upset with rising taxes tried last year to get permission from New Jersey's Secretary of State to begin a petition recall campaign against Menendez.

    When that was denied, they went to court. And now they've won. At least the first round.

    There's no question the odds of success are slim: A successful recall vote requires a fourth of the state's registered voters to sign the petition in order to get the issue on the fall ballot (Menendez' term ends in January of 2013).

    That would mean roughly 1.3 million such signatures are needed.

    The Appeals Court ruling found the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue of recalling a U.S. Senator.

    "Given the will of the people embodied in our state organic law, and the dearth of clear precedent nullifying the people's enactments, we accordingly decline at this juncture to find our state constitutional provision and related stature permitting recall of a United States Senator to be unconstitutional," the Appeals Court found.

    The opinion added, "The silence of the federal Constitution [on recall] may well result in the conclusion that it may be done."

    The Court took pains to say its decision is not "definitively valid or invalid," and in fact put a stay on its own decision until lawyers for Senator Menendez can appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

    Nonetheless, the Court was definitive in ordering the current Secretary of State to allow the petition effort of the Tea Party to move forward, should the State Supreme Court agree