HARTFORD, Conn. – A legislative panel urged a judge Monday to force Gov. John G. Rowland (search) to testify in the impeachment proceedings against him, saying it would be "constitutionally perverse" to allow him to duck the hearing.
Judge John Langenbach (search) promised a ruling later Monday on Rowland's lawsuit seeking to quash a House Select Committee of Inquiry subpoena that orders him to appear at committee hearings slated to begin Tuesday. Even if the governor does not testify, the hearings are expected to go forward.
Lawyers for the committee said it was inappropriate for Rowland, a third-term Republican, to ask a court to throw out its subpoena.
"It would be constitutionally perverse to allow the target of an impeachment investigation to thwart the investigation," said Cynthia Arato, the committee's lawyer.
But lawyers for both sides said no chief executive in U.S. history has been forced to testify in a legislative proceeding to determine if the official should be impeached. An impeachment, the equivalent of an indictment in a criminal case, is followed by a trial in the Senate.
The panel has been investigating Rowland for accepting gifts from friends, employees and state contractors. Rowland has said he has done nothing to compromise his office. His lawyer argues that the effort to get him to testify violates the constitutional guarantee that the three branches of government have equal power.
Rowland lawyer Ross Garber said the committee members cannot force the governor to make the case for them.
"The Legislature may impeach the chief executive, but that is its power. It cannot compel his attendance," Garber told Langenbach.
The judge earlier rejected Arato's argument that the Superior Court has no jurisdiction over the dispute.
"The present case presents a ripe controversy as the governor is asserting an imminent injury to the basic structure of Connecticut government and to the balance of powers," Langenbach said.
A lawyer for the House Select Committee of Inquiry (search) argued that earlier in the morning that the Superior Court does not have jurisdiction in the case because the lawsuit involves constitutional issues between separate branches of government.
Langenbach said intervention by the court in the controversy is consistent with judicial review. He promised a written ruling on the underlying arguments later in the day.
Garber said the Superior Court needed to act quickly. "This is a fully ripe controversy."