Puerto Rico's top court invalidates governor's appointment

Puerto Rico's top court invalidates governor's appointment
© Getty Images

Puerto Rico's top court on Wednesday invalidated Gov. Pedro PierluisiPedro Rafael PierluisiPuerto Ricans voters are key in the Sunshine State Puerto Rico Democratic boss: Party 'cannot support' AOC/Velazquez status bill Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez call for convention to decide Puerto Rico status MORE's appointment, removing the former resident commissioner from the office he had held for just five days.

The tribunal's nine justices voted unanimously to invalidate a recess appointment law under which Pierluisi was sworn in Friday without the consent of the territory's Senate.

Pierluisi was appointed as secretary of state and first in line to the governorship by outgoing Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who stepped down Friday amid mass protests demanding his resignation. 


Pierluisi's nomination was approved by the territory's House of Representatives, but Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz blocked the nomination vote in the upper chamber.

Pierluisi was then sworn in under the recess appointment law which was rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.

"In consequence, although the swearing in of the Secretary of State as Governor, without the consent of the Senate, was done under the valid law, the decree of unconstitutionality that we are emitting regarding that part of the law produces the result that the swearing in to the post of governor was unconstitutional," wrote the court.

The court ruled that Pierluisi must step down by 5 p.m. Wednesday, allowing for the territory's executive branch to designate a successor.

With Pierluisi's appointment as secretary of state moot, the next in line to become governor is Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez Garced. In a statement, she said would assume the governorship "given that the position of Secretary of State is vacant."

Vázquez Garced said last week that she was not interested in becoming governor, but would not resign if the duty fell to her.

Rivera Schatz, widely thought to be interested in the governorship, celebrated Wednesday's announcement, touting the court's unanimity. 

"To all those who lent themselves, because of individual convenience, to all this embarrassing attempt to install an illegitimate government, so you will be embodied in the history of Puerto Rico," wrote Rivera Schatz, who is also the president of the New Progressive Party, to which both Rosselló and Pierluisi belong.

Rivera Schatz led the political blockade against Pierluisi's appointment last week, and the judicial contest against his governorship as of Monday.

The Senate and its supporters argued that the recess appointment was invalid, as Rosselló called a special session of the legislature to confirm Pierluisi's nomination.

Pierluisi had said his appointment was valid as he was sworn in as secretary of state before the special session was convened.

--Updated at 2:21 p.m.