Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Linda Tripp, Kato Kaelin, and Jesse White: Illinois Secretary of State Should Savor Next Four Minutes

The year has only begun, but Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White will undoubtedly reach the finals in year-end reviews that rank the most desperate fame seekers of 2009. White has refused to "certify" Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Roland Burris to fill a Senate vacancy, citing the controversy surrounding the governor.

There is a major wrinkle in White's decision, however: The Constitution and Illinois law give the governor exclusive authority to fill the vacancy. In fact, state law mandates that the governor make the appointment: "When a vacancy shall occur in the office of United States Senator from this state, the Governor shall make temporary appointment to fill such vacancy . . . ."

Illinois law does not give White any independent authority to deny the appointment. White's own "spokesperson," David Druker, conceded that White's refusal would not affect the governor's ability to make the appointment and present it to the Senate.

Not only does Illinois law exclusively authorize the governor to fill Senate seats, it also mandates that the Secretary of State certify all commissions that state law compels the governor to issue. Because state law requires the governor to fill the Senate vacancy, which he has done, White must certify the appointment of Burris. Shamelessly, Harry Reid has used White's illegal refusal to certify the appointment (which some commentators doubt is even necessary) as a basis for excluding Burris from the Senate.

Despite the clarity of state and constitutional law on this matter, White has nevertheless staked out a microscopic place in history. Although White will not become as vaulted or infamous as Florida's Katherine Harris -- who probably ranks among the most known state elections officials in U.S. history, White has made somewhat of a name for himself recently, judging by the number of web pages on which his name has suddenly appeared.

But White will soon fade away like Linda Tripp (double-crossing friend of Monica Lewinsky), Kato Kaelin (houseguest to O.J Simpson) and all of the other movie extras who have made fleeting appearances in U.S. political thrillers. But White's run will not last as long as Tripp's or Kaelin's. By my count, he has about four minutes left. I hope he savors the moment.

[Editor's Note: Burris has sued seeking a writ of mandamus compelling White to, well, obey the law. You can read his motion here.]

Related Readings on Dissenting Justice:

On Day That Bill Richardson Announces Withdrawal Harry Reid Softens Rhetoric on Burris

Will Bill Richardson's Case Lead to a Softening of the Rhetoric of "Taint"?

Patrick Buchanan Shows Greater Commitment to Liberal Values Than Senate Democrats, Defends Roland Burris

So When Exactly Does "Change" Arrive? Senate Battle Over Burris and Blagojevich Offers "More of the Same"!

Do Nepotism, Wealth and Dynastic Power "Taint" Kennedy's Likely Senate Appointment? Taking Reid's Arguments Where He Wouldn't Want Them to Go

Some Media Outlets Begin "Palinizing" Roland Burris

On Day That Bill Richardson Announces Withdrawal Harry Reid Softens Rhetoric on Burris

Defiant Blagojevich Names Obama's Successor: Decision Raises Political and Constitutional Questions

Like It or Not, Democracy Prevails: Illinois Supreme Court Refuses to Declare Blagojevich Unfit to Serve

Blago Impeachment: What Would Lincoln Do?

Playing or Paying Politics: Blagojevich, Political DealMaking, and the Difficulty of Drawing Lines

Pick Me! Caroline Kennedy Officially on the Job Market


Nell said...

Thanks for this post, Darren. The Illinois law is clear that White is derelict in his duty by refusing to certify the Burris appointment. I would have expected the request for writ of mandamus to follow. Let's hope the court does its job.

If the certification by White is mandated court order, it will be interesting to see what Harry Reid's next move will be.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Looks like they might reach a compromise. Ever since Richardson's announcement, the tone has shifted. Also, the con law world has rejected their Art. I argument, and it just looks pretty bad heading into the new administration to have this mess going on.

FLRN said...

Okay professor ~ Love the shameless but apt comparison to Mr. Kaelin - Darren you are a Tripp (pun intended)!

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hiya! Happy holidays. It's laughable when you read the statutory language. I think the Democrats are imploding. They had a nice run on unity - but things are shaking up. I think the stride will return around the inauguration, but this does not look good. Reid is very weakened by this situation.

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