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Judge rejects call for election to replace McGreevey

Judge rejects call for election to replace McGreevey

A federal judge on Wednesday refused to order a special election to replace New Jersey governor James E. McGreevey, who announced last month that he would resign his position November 15 because of a same-sex adulterous affair. A state judge later said she would consider the case. U.S. district judge Garrett E. Brown Jr. dismissed a lawsuit that claimed McGreevey had effectively created a vacancy by announcing his resignation. Brown said there is no vacancy to fill because McGreevey has not left office. "He clearly intends to hold office until November 15, 2004. The requirement of holding a special election does not arise. The rights of registered voters are not being violated," Brown said. The lawsuit, filed by two Princeton lawyers, argued that McGreevey is depriving voters of their constitutional rights by staying in office until there is not time enough to schedule a special election. Shortly after Brown made his ruling, one of the attorneys, Bruce Afran, filed the same lawsuit in state superior court in Mercer County. Afran said he believed a state judge might reach a different decision. Superior court judge Linda R. Feinberg said she would hear arguments in the case on October 4 from the lawyers and the state attorney general's office, which is fighting the lawsuit. McGreevey called a news conference last month to say that he had had an extramarital affair with a man and would resign November 15. Under state law, if McGreevey had left office before September 3, a special election would have been called for November 2. But now senate president Richard J. Codey, a fellow Democrat, will succeed McGreevey as acting governor until the term expires in January 2006. The state has no lieutenant governor. In his ruling, Brown detailed definitions of the word vacancy, using several dictionaries. According to every definition he could find, the state has no vacancy, because McGreevey has not left office, Brown said. "I am quite shocked that a U.S. district court judge decides a dictionary is more important than the United States Constitution," Afran said afterward. Asst. Atty. Gen. Stefanie Brand said she was pleased with Brown's decision: "I thought it was clear and logical." McGreevey has not changed his plan to resign, spokesman Micah Rasmussen said. "We appreciate the judge's thoughtful decision," he said.

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