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Columbia Spectator Staff

Updated 4/16/12.

A State Supreme Court justice ruled Friday that new district lines crafted by Republicans in the State Senate are constitutional, although he called some of the Republicans' tactics "disturbing."

In the case of Cohen v. Cuomo, State Democratic Committee member Daniel Marks Cohen had argued that the Republican majority's decision to add a 63rd seat to the body was unconstitutional. This new seat would likely be situated upstate, and its addition is widely seen as an attempt by Republicans to solidify their majority in the narrowly divided chamber.

The case was argued on Friday, and Justice Richard Braun released a decision later that day. Braun wrote in his decision that while Republicans' use of several different methods this year to determine population growth was "disturbing," the plaintiffs had failed to meet their burden of proof.

"Petitioners have not sustained their heavy burden of demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that the Legislature has acted unconstitutionally," he wrote.

Cohen, an Upper West Side resident and the lead plaintiff, said that his side would appeal the ruling to the state's Court of Appeals.

"Obviously, I disagree with Judge Braun, and hopefully the Court of Appeals will overrule him, but we always knew this was going before the Court of Appeals regardless," Cohen said. "So the fact that the judge has not ruled in our favor is a disappointment, but we proceed on nonetheless."

"There's not a shred of doubt in my mind we're going forward," he added.

Cohen said he was surprised by how quickly Braun reached a decision—reached by phone on Friday evening, he had not yet heard about the ruling.

"It was very speedy, and I'm very grateful because it gives us proper time to go before the Court of Appeals," he said. "If we win the appeal, we'll have sufficient time to draw the new lines."

State Senate candidates can begin circulating petitions for the fall primary starting June 5, which means that a decision on the district boundaries needs to be made before then.

casey.tolan@columbiaspectator.com

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