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New Jersey court to hear case for senator's recall

By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - New Jersey's Supreme Court said on Wednesday it will hear arguments by a local Tea Party group that Robert Menendez, one of the state's two Democratic U.S. senators, should be recalled.

The Committee to Recall Robert Menendez from the Office of U.S. Senator wants to recall him because of his support for national healthcare reform.

The group is part of the Tea Party movement in the United States, which expresses conservative views on a range of issues and was vehemently against the healthcare reform measure passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama last month.

The case pits the U.S. Constitution, which precludes the recall of a U.S. senator, against New Jersey law. The court has never considered whether the state's Uniform Recall Election Law is constitutionally valid.

"The Supreme Court must resolve the constitutionality of New Jersey's recall provisions now in order to avoid real harm to the state, Senator Menendez, and the citizens of New Jersey," the court wrote.

Failure to establish the constitutionality of the law would cost time and money, and would hurt the state's democratic legitimacy, the court said.

Afshin Mohamadi, a spokesman for Menendez, called the recall effort unconstitutional, and criticized the Tea Party, which argues for smaller government and lower taxation.

"It is brought by one faction of New Jersey's Tea Party that has called President Obama a Communist, and that runs a web site seeking to rewrite the Bible without a 'liberal bias,'" Mohamadi said in a statement.

Supporters of the recall initiative argued that Menendez's votes on healthcare and other policies have increased federal deficits.

The New Jersey Supreme Court will hear arguments on May 25.

(Editing by Mark Egan and Will Dunham)