Friday, January 09, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court Denies Mandamus Writ In Burris Appointment

The Illinois Supreme Court turned down a writ of mandamus petition filed on behalf of Illinois Senator-designate Roland Burris requesting the high court to compel Secretary of State Jesse White to affix his signature to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appointment of him to the Senate. The U.S. Senate has refused to seat Burris because of the missing signature. The Illinois Supreme Court emphatically declared that Illinois law does not require White to sign Burris' appointment and further opined that Senate rules, insofar as it can determine, do not explicitly require White's signature either:

In their pleadings, Petitioners suggest that the United States Senate has taken the view that the Governor’s signed, hand-delivered certificate of appointment is insufficient to meet the requirements of the Senate’s own internal rules. We note, however, that nothing in the published rules of the Senate, including Rule II, appears to require that Senate appointments made by state executives pursuant to the seventeenth amendment must be signed and sealed by the state’s secretary of state. Moreover, no explanation has been given as to how any rule of the Senate, whether it be formal or merely a matter of tradition, could supercede the authority to fill vacancies conferred on the states by the federal constitution. Under these circumstances, the Senate’s actions cannot serve as the predicate for a mandamus action against the Secretary of State. The only issue before us is whether the Secretary of State, an official of this state, failed to perform an act required of him by the law of Illinois. He did not.

Back to you, Harry.


Don Sherfick said...

Fascinating! Looks like a very well reasoned decision to me, although in the absence of knowing the specific wording of the Illinois statutes cited I would have lost a bundle, 'cause I would have bet the farm that mandamus would have been in order here.

I suspect it won't go that far, but do you think the federal courts would wade into the narrow issue the Illinois Supreme Court seems to have handed them?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Don, I read the decision as a real knock on the U.S. Senate. When you look at it the way this court did, I think it was absolutely right in declining to issue a writ of mandamus, effectively caving to the absurd demand of the U.S. Senate in this case. The Secretary of State did accept and record the appointment and allow the state seal to be affixed to it, albeit without his signature. It's a simple interpretation of what the law required in this case. The governor is the only real person with the power of appointment to act in this case. He did all that he could to carry out his act. If the Senate doesn't agree to accept the appointment, Burris will have to take his case to the federal courts.