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Monserrate seeks to overturn Senate expulsion

ALBANY - Lawyers for State Sen. Hiram Monserrate are expected Thursday to file a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn his expulsion from the Senate because of a misdemeanor assault conviction in December.

The Jackson Heights Democrat will probably seek a temporary restraining order against the Senate action. If the judge grants the order, a special election slated for March 16 to fill Monserrate's seat would be postponed.

Monserrate and attorneys Norman Siegel and Steve Hyman said Wednesday that the suit would be announced at a news conference scheduled for noon in Manhattan.

Monserrate, 42, offered a preview of his legal argument in a speech from the Senate floor Tuesday night after the 53-8 expulsion vote. "My actions don't rise to the level of expulsion," he said. "The process that this body has used has not only deprived me of my due process rights, but will in fact disenfranchise voters of the majority minority district I represent," he added, referring to his Queens district.

First elected in 2008, Monserrate's tenure in the Capitol has been clouded by his arrest in December 2008 for assaulting his girlfriend. He was found guilty of a misdemeanor but acquitted of felony charges that would have automatically cost him his Senate seat. No state lawmaker has been expelled since the 19th century.

A spokesman for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he would represent the Senate in the suit.

Monserrate's expulsion was a rare moment of bipartisanship in the narrowly divided Senate. All Republicans, joined by 24 Democrats, backed the ouster. Only eight senators - all Democrats from New York City - opposed the measure. They included Democratic chief John Sampson of Brooklyn, Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Finance Committee chairman Carl Kruger of Brooklyn.

Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point), sponsor of the expulsion resolution, said Wednesday, "while it may seem drastic to some, Senator Monserrate's expulsion was necessary because of the totality of his actions. Domestic violence is unacceptable in any form and from any member of our society, but particularly from those members who are entrusted by the public to uphold the laws of our state."

Senate staff Wednesday removed Monserrate's nameplate from outside his capital office and removed information about him from the chamber's Web site.

Gov. David A. Paterson issued a proclamation for a special election to be held on March 16.

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