From NBC's Pete Williams
A New Jersey appeals court today gave a tactical boost to an effort, led by a Tea Party group in the state, to recall Sen. Robert Menendez.
The court ruled against New Jersey's secretary of state, who refused to let the group circulate petitions to get a recall measure on the ballot. The secretary of state said recalling a U.S. senator would violate the U.S. Constitution and therefore refused to let the group proceed with its petitions.
But the court said New Jersey law explicitly gives voters "the power to recall ... any United States senator or representative elected from this state." For that reason, the court said, in an unsigned unanimous opinion, the secretary of state must accept the petition.
As for the larger question, of whether such an effort would violate the federal Constitution, the court said it was expressing no opinion. "We should not be understood as passing on the ultimate validity of the recall process regarding a United States Senator or any other underlying issue," today's decision said.
The court put the effect of today's ruling on hold to give the state and Menendez the opportunity to appeal.