By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Sept 27 (Reuters) - A Long Island judge has
overturned 12-year term limits for the Suffolk County district
attorney, clerk and sheriff, saying the power to limit the
officials' terms belonged to the state, not the county.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, Sheriff
Vincent Demarco and Clerk Judith Pascale had argued that the
term limits under Local Law 27-1993 were invalid under the New
York State Constitution and New York State County Law, which do
not set such limits.
The local law was adopted in 1993 as an amendment to the
Suffolk County charter.
In granting summary judgment to the officials, Acting
Supreme Court Justice Ralph Gazzillo wrote, "(I)t is beyond the
power of a county to restrict the number of times that such a
county's district attorney, sheriff and/or clerk may run for
office; under our existing law, the authority to promulgate such
additional qualifications is solely vested with and retained by
However, the judge said in the Sept. 25 ruling that his
finding was limited to these three offices.
Spota, Demarco and Pascale challenged the Local Law in
February when they sued Suffolk County, asking a judge to
invalidate the term limits. Spota, whose third four-year term
expires on Dec. 31, 2013, has not yet publicly announced whether
he will seek re-election. DeMarco and Pascale are both in their
second terms, which are due to expire by the end of 2013 and
The county denied that the limits were invalid, according to
the ruling. It also said the claims weren't ripe because Spota
had not expressed an interest in running for a fourth term and
DeMarco and Pascale had not yet reached their term limits.
Gazzillo disagreed, saying that a decision "could not be
more ripe," since it is "appropriate that he (Spota) know
whether he may or may not run for re-election within the next
The judge noted that term limits are not per se illegal. But
he said when the state interest in particular offices trumps the
local one, the state should have the final say.
"(C)learly the state's interest in those offices is
paramount to that of a county, local or other subdivision,"
An attorney for the plaintiffs could not be reached for
comment. Suffolk County and the district attorney's office did
not return requests for comment.
The case is Spota v. County of Suffolk, New York State
Supreme Court, Suffolk County, No. 4268/2012.
For the plaintiffs: Kevin Snover.
For the defendants; Not immediately available.
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