TRENTON - Tea Party and Democratic Party attorneys faced off before the New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday over a move to recall U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

The Tea Party asserted the state Secretary of State should have allowed it to gather signatures on petitions to recall Menendez last September.

An attorney for Menendez argued there was no point in starting a petition drive for a recall election that would be thrown out because it violated the U.S. Constitution.

The Tea Party is focusing on Menendez because New Jersey has a strong recall law. Party officials say states can set their own rules because the U.S. Constitution is silent on the issue.

Menendez's attorney Marc Elias, however, argued the U.S. Constitution is very clear: it set six-year terms for U.S. Senators, precluding recalls.

Former Secretary of State Nina Wells rejected the petition request earlier this year, ruling that recalling a federal official was not constitutional.

The court, with six members, will make a decision sometime in the future. The seventh seat on the bench is empty following Gov. Christie's decision to not reappoint John Wallace.

Contact staff writer Cynthia Burton at 856-779-3858 or cburton@phillynews.com.