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Judge considers attempt to toss out Assembly maps

James Walden, an attorney for Gavin Wax, argues why he should be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit in an attempt to invalidate the state Assembly district lines.
Vaughn Golden
James Walden, an attorney for Gavin Wax, argues why he should be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit in an attempt to invalidate the state Assembly district lines.

Several parties argued their reasoning to intervene in the ongoing legal proceedings over New York’s legislative maps Tuesday.

Last week, New York Young Republican Club President Gavin Wax and political activist Gary Greenberg asked to intervene in the case to challenge the Assembly maps after the state’s highest court noted in its ruling that they were unconstitutionally implemented by the state Legislature. The Court of Appeals did not invalidate the map because it was never challenged by the Republican petitioners during the initial proceedings.

Judge Patrick McAllister, who has presided over the case since Republicans challenged the state Senate and congressional maps in February, appeared skeptical of the prospective intervenors’ arguments to why the district lines for the state Assembly should be invalidated as well. He mainly questioned whether there would be enough time to allow a legal case to proceed while delaying Assembly and several other elections tied to those districts, like judicial delegates.

“I’ve been at this now over two months just on the state Senate and congressional maps,” McAllister said responding to Wax’s attorney. “If I were to rule in your client’s favor, I assume there’s going to be appeals up through. If that takes another two months, there’s a whole lot of things that have to happen at the Board of Elections in order to make this fly and make this comport with the law and I’m worried that that’s not going to happen.”

Attorneys for Wax and Greenberg maintained that there was sufficient time to hold elections later in the year, and that the constitutionality of the maps should supersede timeliness considerations.

Greenberg’s attorney, James Walden also presented an allegation that Republicans entered into a quid pro quo agreement with Democrats not to challenge the Assembly maps.

“There was a political deal that involved a quid pro quo,” Walden told the judge. “That’s what Mr. Greenberg started hearing when that brief was filed. He started hearing these rumors that there was a deal worked out between the Democrats and the Republicans to give the Republicans something in return for leaving the Assembly districts alone.”

Lawyers for both the Republicans and Democrats denied Greenberg’s assertion.

“If you’re going to say that there was some sort of quid pro quo between Republicans and Democrats in the state Assembly, you better have some evidence and Mr. Walden doesn’t offer any,” Craig Bucki, the attorney representing Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “And so to make that kind of assertion about elected officials who take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of New York. That is particularly irresponsible and unbecoming of an officer of the court.”

The lawyer for the attorney general’s office representing Gov. Kathy Hochul in the proceedings called Greenberg’s claim a “conspiracy theory.”

Walden declined to offer further details, but said that Greenberg would present them if he were allowed to intervene in the case.

Several state Senate and congressional candidates also appeared before the judge Tuesday, asking to intervene. They intend to ask the judge to consider adjusting petitioning requirements to appear on the ballot under new district lines set to be implemented by May 20.

McAllister said he would issue a decision in the near future, but did not lay out a specific timeline.