A judge ruled Monday that Gov. John G. Rowland (search) must testify before a legislative panel investigating whether he should be impeached for accepting gifts from friends, employees and state contractors.

The governor's lawyers immediately asked the judge to hold off on his decision while they appeal to the state Supreme Court.

If Rowland is forced to testify, it would be the first time in U.S. history that a sitting chief executive was ordered to testify before a legislative body, lawyers for both sides said.

Rowland had asked Judge John Langenbach to throw out a subpoena, saying the legislature overstepped its bounds by commanding him to testify.

Langenbach refused.

"The legislature is not categorically barred under the separation of powers doctrine from compelling the chief executive to testify," Langenbach wrote in the decision.