STATUS OF 93 MANHATTAN MEMBERS, INCLUDING FULANI AND NEWMAN, TO BE DECIDED IN STATE COURT
New York, NY - On Thursday, July 27th the New York State Supreme Court will consider an action by Independence Party state chair Frank MacKay to disenroll 93 members of the party in Manhattan. The matter will go before Judge Emily Goodman at 2:15 pm in Room 422 at 60 Centre Street in New York City. A disenrollment proceeding targeting an additional 24 Independence Party members will be heard separately in Brooklyn on July 31st, 2006.
Disenrollment from a political party, while provided for under New York state election law, is extremely rare. A mass disenrollment of this kind has not been attempted in New York since 1950 in the American Labor Party.
Attorneys for the party members targeted for disenrollment will argue that MacKay lacks jurisdiction to bring the disenrollment proceeding and that the substance of the complaint is groundless. MacKay and Vice Chairman Tom Connolly conducted party hearings on the proposed disenrollment in June. None of the targeted persons appeared at the hearings, citing MacKay's lack of jurisdiction to conduct them. Under state law, disenrollment must be initiated and conducted at the county level. MacKay bypassed the local organizations.
MacKay is attempting to remove more than 100 party members citywide based on the statements of two Independence Party members -- Lenora Fulani and Fred Newman -- who are accused of being "not in sympathy" with the party's principles. Statements made by Newman and Fulani concerning the history and politics of the Middle East form the crux of the complaint. These statements, made in 1985 and 1989 respectively, represented their personal views, had nothing to do with the Independence Party (which was not founded until 1994) and were not made in relation to any Independence Party activity. Thus, the disenrollment case raises questions of constitutionally protected free speech.
The remaining 115 party members have been similarly charged on the basis of unspecified associations with Fulani and Newman.
Papers were submitted to the court by both sides after Judge Goodman asked attorneys to review the legal and constitutional basis for the proceeding. Papers for the respondents include a legal brief, affidavits by Fred Newman and Cathy Stewart and a set of letters supplied to the court by elected officials and community activists who have worked with the Independence Party organization in New York City.