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Madigan may take him to high court

NEXT STEP | Attorney general might invoke rule to get Illinois Supreme Court to vote on ousting Blagojevich

December 11, 2008

Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday threatened to go to the state Supreme Court to have embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared unfit to hold office if he doesn't resign soon or get impeached by the Legislature.

"I am prepared to take action," Madigan said on CNN.

She said the best thing would be for Blagojevich to resign. The governor was arrested Tuesday on charges that he put President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat up for sale and he has ignored calls for his resignation.

Blagojevich was expected to return to work at his Chicago office Thursday, but there was no sign of him leaving home by midmorning. Aides did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

"The easiest way for us to move on in the state of Illinois is for Governor Blagojevich to do the right thing for the people and to resign," Madigan said. "Now, it doesn't appear that he has any inclination to do that. Maybe things will change today or tomorrow."

"I have the opportunity to go to our Illinois Supreme Court and ask them to declare our governor is unable to serve and put in our lieutenant governor as acting governor," Madigan said.

"The attorney general is prepared to take action but believes the Legislature should have a reasonable time to act," Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said.

Bauer did not specify a timeline for Blagojevich to resign or for the House and Senate to act on impeachment before she would get involved.

The state Constitution doesn't explicitly indicate an officeholder can be ousted by the court or by impeachment if that person faces criminal charges. Instead, the Constitution uses terms such as "failure to qualify" or "disability" in laying out causes to impeach someone.

The Supreme Court rule allowing justices to wade into the issue of gubernatorial fitness is even less defined, saying only that the court has authority to determine "the ability of the governor to serve."

Madigan, House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a longtime Blagojevich friend and colleague, called Tuesday for his impeachment.

But it wasn't clear that Democratic legislative leaders were ready to act on impeachment anytime soon despite hasty plans to reconvene in Springfield next week to react to the Blagojevich bombshell.

One worry among some in the House, where impeachment would begin, focuses on how evidence now held exclusively and tightly by federal prosecutors could be presented to a legislative impeachment panel before a Blagojevich trial.

In a statement, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the attorney general's father, dealt only fleetingly with impeachment, saying he was "prepared to discuss the suggestions of the House Republican leader."

He did not commit to pushing for an impeachment resolution.

The governor's lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky, said his client has no plans to resign.

If Blagojevich did step down, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would take over, dramatically altering the state's political landscape heading into a 2010 gubernatorial election. On Tuesday, Quinn urged the governor to "step aside."

With Blagojevich in mind, Quinn, a self-styled populist disliked by many in his own party, led an unsuccessful legislative effort to pass a constitutional amendment that would have allowed voters to recall corrupt or incompetent leaders from office.

Associated Press Contributing

Complete Blagojevich pay-to-play coverage at BlagoBusted.com
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    What our columnists are saying
  • Mark Brown: Dems' reverse on Senate seat a bad move
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  • Carol Marin: Gov's lawyer likely to infuriate Legislature
  • Steve Huntley: Who will Blago drag down?
  • Mark Brown: 'That's just politics' won't cut it for Blago
  • Mary Mitchell: Obama's Senate list a big miss
  •  
    PDFs:
  • Read the complaint against Blagojevich
  • Official release from US Attorney's office
  • Durbin's letter to Blago asking him to resign
  • Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.