A Suffolk Superior Court judge today rejected a request by the state Republican Party to block the appointment of Paul G. Kirk Jr. as interim US senator, clearing the way for the Democrat to take the oath of office this afternoon in Washington.
Judge Thomas Connolly ruled that the Republicans' claim was legally inadequate, noting in his four-page decision that, "the Party does not cite any case law in support of its argument." The GOP had maintained that Democratic Governor Deval Patrick overstepped his authority by declaring an emergency so Kirk's appointment could be made immediately. Connolly ruled, however, that the state Constitution clearly gave the governor the power to call for the immediate implementation of a law by sending the secretary of state a letter.
"This court finds that the Party has not shown that it has a chance to succeed on the merits and therefore, any risk of harm to the Party will not outweigh the risk of harm to the Governor and the Commonwealth," Connolly wrote after deliberating for more than four hours.
The ruling leaves Republicans with few options to stop Kirk from taking the oath of office this afternoon in Washington by Vice President Joe Biden.
"I really didn't have a great deal of concern about it," Kirk said of the Republican's legal effort to block his swearing-in.
State Republican chairwoman Jennifer Nassour blasted all Democrats involved in the appointment, saying in a statement that this afternoon's court decision exposed them as "purely partisan."
"I urge the voters of Massachusetts to not allow the courts the final say in this matter," Nassour said. "I believe the ultimate remedy to the untenable situation on Beacon Hill can be found in the voting booths."
Lawmakers passed a law this week giving Patrick the power to appoint an interim replacement for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy until a special election can be held Jan. 19. Laws usually take 90 days to go into effect, but Patrick signed an emergency letter which made it effective immediately.
In a court filing, Assistant Attorney General Peter Sacks countered that the Supreme Judicial Court in a 1975 ruling had made it clear that a governor does not need legislative approval to invoke an emergency. He also said that the judiciary does not have the constitutional authority to directly block a governor's executive appointment.
On Thursday, Secretary of State William F. Galvin, a Democrat, said the emergency letter is "very clearly available to the governor under the Constitution. I donít know how you suggest this is something novel. It's not."
Former Republican governor Mitt Romney used the emergency provision 14 times, Galvin added, including to increase the boating speed limit in Charlton and to change the office of town moderator in Milton.
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