Thursday's decision by the Illinois Supreme Court to allow Rahm Emanuel on the ballot in Chicago's mayoral race was unanimous. But of the seven justices, two of them -- Justices Anne Burke and Charles Freeman -- "specially concurred," and at times took their judicial colleagues to task for using "inflammatory" language.
"We join in the majority's decision to reverse the judgement of the appellate court," they wrote in their opinion. "We do not, however, agree with the majority's reasoning."
- "The result in this case is in no way as clear-cut as the majority makes it out to be. The majority states that, in Illinois, "the legal meaning of residence has been settled for well over 100 years..."
"This is simply not true," they wrote, citing cases which "define residence in terms of domicile plus a permanent abode. In other words, under these cases, intent alone is not enough to establish residency."
Additionally, Burke and Freeman at times seemed to use language rebuking their law colleagues.
Even though they ultimately agree with Justice Bertina Lampkin, the appellate judge who wrote the dissenting opinion, they said she and the majority in the Supreme Court used "inflammatory statements" that "serve only to damage the integrity of the judiciary."
They wrote: (note: edited for clarity)...
- The dissenting justice ... accused the appellate court majority of engaging in a "pure flight of fancy," of "conjur[ing]" its result "out of thin air," and of having a "careless disregard for the law."
The dissenting justice also stated that the result was a "figment of the majority’s imagination," based on the "whims of two judges." In other words, the dissenting justice accused the majority of basing its decision on something other than the law. When the appellate court’s decision was announced, these accusations were repeatedly emphasized in the media (see, e.g., Judicial Arrogance, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 25, 2011, [and] Rahm Ruling a Disservice to Voters, Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 25, 2011), thereby fueling the perception that the appellate court’s decision was, in fact, based on extrajudicial considerations. The tone taken by the majority today, and the refusal to acknowledge conflicting case law, unfairly perpetuates that notion.
Spirited debate plays an essential role in legal discourse. But the majority opinion here and the appellate dissent cross the line. Inflammatory accusations serve only to damage the integrity of the judiciary and lessen the trust which the public places in judicial opinions.