Friday, August 11, 2006

Brooklyn Court Rejects Attempt by Independence Party State Chair Frank MacKay To Disenroll 24 Independence Party Members

From a press release from the New York County Independence Party Aug. 11:

Judge Upholds State Law Over Party Rights

New York, NY—New York State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Levine today dismissed a court action initiated by Independence Party state chair Frank MacKay to disenroll 24 members of the party in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Judge Joseph Levine stated in his decision that MacKay’s “determination to disenroll respondents from membership in the New York State Independence Party was not just,” because it did not comply with election law. Responding to arguments by MacKay’s attorneys that the party could proceed with disenrollment without adhering to state law, Judge Levine wrote “once a person is an enrolled member of a political party in New York State,” the legal process for disenrollment “must be strictly adhered to.”

“Parties have rights but they're not above the law,” said attorney Harry Kresky, co-counsel with Gary Sinawski for the respondents. “We're glad that Judge Levine recognized that Independence Party members in New York City are entitled to protection from illegal overreaching by the party's chairman and state leaders.”

A disenrollment proceeding targeting an additional 93 Independence Party members was heard separately in Manhattan on July 27th, 2006. Judge Emily Jane Goodman has not yet ruled in that case.

In June, MacKay and Vice Chairman Tom Connolly conducted party hearings on the proposed disenrollment. None of the targeted persons appeared at the hearings, citing MacKay’s lack of jurisdiction to conduct them. In his decision, Judge Levine noted that the proceeding was commenced by Mackay, the state chairman, on the complaint of a party member from Queens, not Brooklyn or Staten Island. Under state law, disenrollment must be initiated and conducted at the county level.

MacKay’s attempts to remove more than 100 party members citywide cite statements concerning the history and politics of the Middle East of two Independence Party members—Lenora Fulani and Fred Newman—accusing them of being “not in sympathy” with the party’s principles. These statements, made years before the Independence Party was founded, represented personal views and were not made in connection with any Independence Party activity. Thus, attorneys for the respondents raised questions of constitutionally protected free speech, though Judge Levine did not address these issues in his decision. He did reject a motion by MacKay to disqualify attorneys Kresky and Sinawski.

Independence Party of New York County
225 Broadway, Suite 2010 ~ New York, NY 10007
Phone (212) 962-1699 Fax (212) 803-1899
Cathy L. Stewart – Chair
For Immediate Release:August 11, 2006
Contact: Sarah Lyons
212-962-1824 / 917-658-9885

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