BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Under New York's new ethics law, an independent committee made up of leaders from the state's 15 accredited law schools decide by a majority vote whether to confirm appointments to the 11 member Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in government. 

Last month, that panel rejected Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt's appointment of Gary Lavine, a Syracuse-area attorney who served on the now-disbanded Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

"We had several appointees who did great work on JCOPE if unheralded, but very good work, and Gary was one of them," Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said.

Lavine is challenging the provision giving the panel the authority to confirm or reject an appointee.

"If the constitution or a statute requires confirmation, the confirmation must be by the state Senate. He can not be by any other entity conjured up by the governor or the Legislature," he said.

The attorney, who previously served as general counsel for Niagara Mohawk and deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Energy, said the deans unanimously voted against him, with the exception of the dean from his alma mater Syracuse, who recused himself.

"This decision by the deans was not based upon my record as a lawyer or my qualifications. It was based on my opinions that they disagreed with," Lavine said.

In the rejection letter, included as evidence in the lawsuit, the committee wrote it believed Lavine's prior ethics commission experience "negatively shaped his expectations regarding the new commission" and he has given the appearance of being unable to act impartially, fairly and and even-handedly. The attorney believes the primary reason for his rejection is a disagreement on their interpretation of confidentiality clauses and to the extent to which commission's work should be done in secret.

"I specifically said to the deans in writing the state court of appeals has consistently held that there is a preference for openness in the administration of state government," Lavine said.

The panel has asked Ortt to provide an alternate nomination but the minority leader said he has no plans to do so.

"I'm an elected official. I get an appointment. My appointment should stand, period. Period. There shouldn't be any other discussion," Ortt said. "These people are not elected."

Lavine filed the lawsuit in Onondaga County roughly a week and a half ago although he said the defendants who include the committee, the state, the governor and Democrat and Republic leaders in the Legislature have not yet been served.