Ill. Supreme Court on Burris: No Signature Required

Durbin: Senate Should Wait, Let Next Governor Fill Seat

By Zach Christman and Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Friday, Jan 9, 2009  |  Updated 11:55 PM CDT
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Reid: "Rules Will Not Be Waived for Roland Burris"

Roland Burris' fate now lies with the U.S. Senate Rules Committee.

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Jesse White Press Conference

Secretary of State Jesse White says Burris has "impeccable credentials," but no recommendation coming from the current governor will be certified.

Burris: "Shortly, I'll...Be Your Senator"

Roland Burris discusses the ongoing saga of his appointment to the Senate.
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The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the secretary of state need not sign the document appointing Roland Burris' to the U.S. Senate.  [Read the court's ruling]

Burris had asked the court to issue a writ of mandamus, which would force Secretary of State Jesse White to sign Burris' appointment document.   White has refused to sign the appointment issued by scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying any appointment made by the governor is tainted.

The court wrote: "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."

With the ruling, the fate of Burris' appointment falls to the Senate, which says its rules require the signature of both the governor and the secretary of state for any appointment.  Sen. Dick Durbin said earlier this week that the Senate has never waived that rule. 

Durbin reiterated that point Friday, saying the court's decision "creates an impasse."  He said the best course of action for the Senate should be to wait for the impeachment process to conclude, and let the new governor fill Barack Obama's Senate seat.

However, in its ruling, the Supreme Court said it found nothing in the rules of the Senate that require the secretary of state's signature. 

"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," the court states.

The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows states the power to appoint senators when there is a vacancy.

White Reacts

White opened his post-ruling news conference with a joke, which is quite out of character for the usually straightforward secretary of state.

"Ladies and gentlemen, don't ask me to sign anything, OK?" he said, chuckling.
 
White went on more seriously: "I could not and would not in good conscience sign my name to any appointment made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the Senate seat. 
 
"The ultimate decision to seat or not to seat the Senate appointee is left up to the United States Senate," he said.

Burris Reacts

Following the ruling, Burris seemed optimistic, choosing to focus on the part of the court's ruling that spoke about Senate rules, even though the court denied his motion.  Here's his statement:

Today the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the Secretary of State's signature is not needed to validate my appointment to the U. S. Senate by the Governor. I am very happy that the Supreme Court ruled supporting our argument that everything surrounding this appointment was legal and complete. This appointment meets the qualifications required by the U.S. Senate of all Gubernatorial appointees to fill vacated seats. After addressing the Illinois House Special Investigative Committee yesterday affirming that there was nothing questionable surrounding my appointment by the Governor, I am confident I have cooperated with all the requests of the U. S. Senate and I expect they will validate my credentials and seat me in a timely manner. I am humbled by all the support I have received and look forward to getting to work addressing the important issues our state and nation are facing.

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