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Puerto Rico Senate sues to block new governor, calls on high court

By Clyde Hughes
Puerto Rico Senate sues to block new governor, calls on high court
The lawsuit said Pedro Pierluisi's rise to the governor's office is not legal, since he has not won approval from the Senate. File Photo by Molly Riley/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The new appointed leader of Puerto Rico now faces a lawsuit from the Senate in San Juan, which says his ascension to the island's top post is unconstitutional.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi was sworn in Friday after the resignation of Ricardo Rossello, who put Pierluisi in line to take over the office by naming him secretary of state, which is first in Puerto Rico's line of succession. Rossello resigned over a scandal involving derogatory remarks he and other officials had made in messages that were later leaked to the public.

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Pierluisi was approved by recess appointment law after the House voted Friday to confirm the nomination. The Puerto Rican Senate filed the suit Sunday, which says Pierluisi's appointment as secretary of state needs confirmation from both legislative chambers. Thus, If he is not the legitimate holder of that office, he cannot ascend to the governorship, it argues.

"Although it is regrettable that this matter has to be dealt with in our courts, I hope that it will be treated with the greatest urgency and diligence for the good of the people of Puerto Rico," Pierluisi answered Sunday.

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Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said a vote on Pierluisi's nomination had been scheduled, but Pierluisi said a vote now is moot since he's already governor.

"I remind all that I swore in as governor being in full possession of the post of secretary of the Department of State," Pierluisi said in a statement. "I swore that post while the Legislative Assembly was in recess, as that ceremony took place Wednesday the 31st of July at 5:00 p.m. and the extraordinary session of the Legislative Assembly did not start until Thursday at 11:00 a.m."

"Puerto Rico is living a situation without historical precedent," said Rivera Schatz.

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The Senate suit calls on the Puerto Rican Supreme Court to take up the dispute, but justices have not yet indicated whether they will do so.

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