Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled Wednesday that Pedro Pierluisi was unconstitutionally sworn in as governor on Friday, and they ordered him to resign within hours. Pierluisi soon departed and Justice Minister Wanda Vázquez was sworn in as governor that evening.
The Supreme Court’s decision, which cannot be appealed, ended nearly a week of confusion about who was in charge of the island. Outgoing Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who was about to resign in disgrace, nominated Pierluisi last Wednesday to fill the vacant post of secretary of state, the office that is first in line for the governorship. Puerto Rico’s constitution requires the secretary of state to be confirmed by both the commonwealth’s House and Senate, but Pierluisi was sworn into that job Wednesday evening before any legislators had a chance to vote.
The House gave Pierluisi an affirmative vote on Friday about an hour before Rosselló’s departure took effect, but the Senate postponed their own hearings until the following week. However, that didn’t stop Pierluisi from being sworn in as governor on Friday. Pierluisi cited a 2005 law that said that the secretary of state didn’t need to have received legislative confirmation from both chambers if they need to take over as governor to make his case that he was indeed Puerto Rico’s legitimate leader. However, the court ruled that this provision was unconstitutional on Wednesday in the decision that ousted Pierluisi from the governor’s office.
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