Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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NY Convention Challenge Deemed Premature

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) - Finding that a convention to revise the New York Constitution is years away if it ever happens, a state appeals court found it premature to consider whether elected officials should serve as convention delegates.

The New York Constitution provides that voters consider holding a constitutional convention every 20 years. Voters are still two years away from seeing the question on the ballot.

A "yes" vote would set in motion a process for electing delegates in the November 2018 general election, with the actual convention convening the following spring. It would meet as long as there was work to be done; voters would have to approve any proposed changes to the constitution.

Robert Schulz of Queensbury, near Glens Falls, filed suit in late 2012, asking the Albany County Supreme Court to keep certain elected officials and others - namely Gov. Andrew Cuomo, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Republican State Chairman Ed Cox - from serving as delegates at such a hypothetical convention.

Another 95 pro se litigants from 39 of New York's 62 counties joined Schulz in the effort.

They contend that rewriting the state constitution should not involve anyone connected to New York politics or its three branches of government, since they would likely try to block changes that would restrict their own powers.

The Albany County Supreme Court dismissed the case in February 2014, finding that the claims "were not ripe for adjudication."

A four-judge panel of the Appellate Division's Third Department in Albany agreed Thursday, calling the convention far from certain.

"The instant action is 'premature and as a matter of law may not be maintained [as] the issue presented for adjudication involves ... future event[s] beyond the control of the parties which may never occur,'" Justice John Egan Jr. wrote, quoting precedent.

To buttress the point, Egan noted that voters in 2017 could vote against convening such a convention, or that the "political class" Schulz seeks to block as delegates might not want to serve in that capacity.

Plaintiffs must meet two criteria to bring claims that are justiciable, meaning that they can be reviewed and remedied. For one, their interest must be sufficient to support standing. Second, they must show that they face near-term harm from the underlying controversy, rather than "hypothetical, contingent or remote prejudice."

Schulz met neither, the justices found.

The harm alleged "is speculative, as it is predicated upon a series of events that may not come to pass," Egan wrote.

Furthermore, the plaintiffs failed to show how they would be harmed more than the public at large by any "pro-government revisions to the NY Constitution," the six-page ruling states.

Justices Robert Rose, Eugene Devine and Christine Clark concurred.

Schulz often is described as a constitutional activist who has challenged the state and federal governments for years on taxation, voting rights, public debt and other issues. He is a principal of an umbrella organization known as We the People that advocates and educates on constitutional rights.

New York's last constitutional convention was in 1967 and lasted five months. Some changes came out of it, but they were not approved by voters, according to the New York State Archives and Records Administration.

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