Judge to make decision on Green Light Law in November

Judge reserves ruling until next month after oral arguments from attorneys

Mike Baggerman
October 23, 2019 - 2:38 pm

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns and Assistant Erie County Attorney Ken Kirby after oral arguments in the Green Light Law case. October 23, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - A federal judge will make a decision on New York's Green Light Law sometime in mid-November after hearing arguments from attorneys representing Erie County and an attorney from the attorney general's office.

The Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain a New York driver's license, has put Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns between a rock and a hard place, according to Assistant County Attorney Ken Kirby. If Kearns gives an undocumented immigrant a driver's license, he believes he is susceptible for prosecution at the federal level. However, if Kearns refuses to give illegals a license, he faces removal from his office Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Kearns remains opposed to the law citing a supremacy clause that said federal law is above state law.

Assistant Attorney General Linda Fang argued on behalf of the state, saying Kearns has no standing and would not be implicated by prosecutors.

"The threat of prosecution is not...imminent," she said.

Kearns' attorneys were pressed by Judge Elizabeth Wolford on whether or not the clerk has standing on challenging the law if he faces a threat from federal prosecutors. They argued that if he chose not to enforce the law, he would be removed from office and that Kearns should have the right to assist the federal government.

"If you listened carefully to the state's arguments, they were very intent on trying to avoid a determination on the merits of the Green Light Law," Kirby said. "Instead (they were focused) on technical arguments like standing or capacity."

New York's Green Light Law takes effect on December 14 if the judge rules against Erie County's motion for a preliminary injunction.


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