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BRIEF FOR THE SOCIALIST ASSEMBLYMEN
Before the Judiciary Committee of the Assembly of the State of New York
IN THE MATTER
The Investigation as to the Qualifica-
The Institution of Proceedings
At the general election held November 4, 1919, five Socialist candidates, Louis Waldman, August Claessens, Samuel A. deWitt, Samuel Orr and Charles Solomon were elected to the Assembly from districts in New York city. The votes cast were as follows:
Herman Weiss (Rep. & Dem. Fusion) 5,010
Certificates of the election of Messrs. deWitt, Orr, Solomon, Waldman, and Claessens were duly filed.
On January 7, 1920, the Assembly convened for the session of 1920. The Socialist Assemblymen appeared before the Secretary of State and took the oath of office. No objection was interposed. They took the seats assigned to them in the Assembly Chamber, answered the roll call, nominated and voted for candidates for the offices of Speaker, Clerk, and Sergeant-at-Arms, and took part in the adoption of rules.
When the organization of the House had been completed, the Speaker, without notice or motion, directed the Sergeant-at-Arms to present the five Socialist Assemblymen before the bar of the House. The Sergeantat-Arms did so. Thereupon, still with no motion
before the House, the Speaker addressed them as follows:
"You, who have been summoned before the Bar of this House, are seeking seats in this body,- you who have been elected on a platform that is absolutely inimical to the best interests of the State of New York and of the United States. That platform is the doctrine of the Socialist Party and provides that every person elected thereupon subscribes to the rules and regulations, principles and tactics, of that party." (p. 2053)
The Speaker then recited, and amplified with extracts from the Moscow Manifesto (as to which see Point VI of this brief), the charges contained in the resolution subsequently offered.
He concluded as follows:
"It is every citizen's right to have his day in court. If this House shall adopt a resolution declaring your seat herein vacant pending a hearing before a tribunal of this House, you will be given an opportunity to appear before such tribunal to prove your right to a seat in this legislative body, and upon the result of such hearing and the findings of the Assembly tribunal your right to participate in the actions of this body will be determined." (pp. 2045-55)
The following colloquy ensued:
"Mr. Claessens: Mr. Speaker, do I understand we have no rights until this body officially decides? Mr. Speaker: If the House so decides.
Mr. Waldman: Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Waldman.
Mr. Waldman: According to the rules adopted by this body only a little while ago a member elected to this House can only be unseated when charges are filed against him and the Judiciary Committee reports on the situation and then action is taken by this House. Is it not true?
Mr. Speaker: The Chair rules that the Majority Leader be given an opportunity to present his resolution.
Mr. Adler: Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: The gentleman from Monroe, Mr. Adler.
Mr. Adler: I offer a privileged resolution and move its adoption." (p. 2055)
The resolution which was then read, after the "Whereas" clauses quoted in full on pages 8-10 of this brief, concluded as follows:
"Therefore, Be it resolved, that the said Louis Waldman, August Claessens, Samuel A. deWitt, Samuel Orr, and Charles Solomon, members of the Socialist Party, be and they hereby are denied seats in this Assembly pending the determination of their qualifications and eligibility to their respective seats, and be it further
"Resolved, That the investigation of the qualifications and eligibility of the said persons to their respective seats in this Assembly be and it hereby is referred to the Committee on Judiciary of the Assembly of the State of New York, to be hereafter appointed, and that the said Committee be empowered to adopt such rules of procedure as in its judgment it deems proper, and that said committee be further empowered to subpoena and exam
ine witnesses and documentary evidence, and to report to this body its determinations as to the qualifications and eligibility of the said Louis Waldman, August Claessens, Samuel A. deWitt, Samuel Orr, and Charles Solomon, and each of them respectively to a seat in this Assembly." (p. 2057)
The stenographic transcript of the proceedings concludes as follows:
Mr. Speaker. The question is upon the adoption of the resolution.
Mr. Waldman.- May I inquire whether it is not the rule of this House and the precedent of the State Legislature that when charges are filed against any member of this House the duly elected member is permitted to represent his district until the Judiciary Committee renders its decision and renders a report to the Legislature, whereupon the Legislature acts? Has that not been the precedent and is it not the rule?
Mr. Speaker. In reply, the Constitution provides that the House is the sole judge of the qualifications of its members and it may or may not grant a hearing. It is the purpose in this case that you shall be given a day in court. The question occurs upon the adoption of the resolution.
Mr. Waldman.- Mr. Speaker, on a point of parliamentary inquiry, I want to find out if it is possible to move a reference of this resolution to a different committee other than the one named?
Mr. Speaker. If the resolution is adopted it carries its own reference. The question is upon the adoption of the resolution; all in favor will say