More on Burris

The Illinois Supreme Court says that Burris was duly appointed, but that the Illinois Secretary of State isn’t required to certify as much. The Senate rules, which control here, seem to require a certification. Meanwhile, it turns out that Burris may be dumb, as rumored, but isn’t completely clean.

I have no idea what the outcome will be of the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision to divide the baby. If I understand things correctly, Court declined to order the Illinois Secretary of State to sign the certificate required by the Senate rules to verify Blago’s nomination of Roland Burris for the vacant Senate seat. But it also ruled that the nomination was complete without the Secretary of State’s signature, according to Illinois law.

The problem is that it isn’t Illinois law that governs. The Senate is the judge of its own returns, so if its rules require a document written in vermilion ink and sealed with four pieces of red tape, its rules would seem to control. On the other hand, it’s not clear to me that, by Illinois law, there remains any vacancy for the new Governor to fill, or whether there’s anything the legislature can do about it.

In the meantime, Burris’s “dumb but clean” image has been taking a pounding. It’s not clear that the Governor received no financial benefit for appointing him, and it is clear that Burris, in an act of political cowardice, tried to send a man he knew to be innocent to the gas chamber. Those are two good reasons not to seat Burris if there’s any legal justification for not doing so.

One possible outcome: the Senate can hold some hearings about whether Burris’s firm paid off Blago’s wife and decide (after Blago is out of office) to reject the nomination on the grounds that it was corruptly procured. That is clearly within the Senate’s Constitutional powers, and would leave a vacancy for the new Governor to fill.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: