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When will Ill. Supreme Court rule on Rahm?

January 25, 2011 8:33:38 PM PST
Rahm Emanuel's name is back on the ballot for Chicago mayor -- for now.

On Tuesday, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered all ballots must be printed with his name as the high court considers his appeal on a residency ruling that put him out of the race.

There is no time frame on when the state Supreme Court will make a ruling.

After the order came down, the Chicago election board re-formatted the ballot to put Emanuel's name back on the ballot and began printing again. Board chairman Langdon Neal acknowledged the possibility that things could change yet again after the Illinois Supreme Court hears the case.

"We will have an election February 22nd. The Chicago Board of Elections will be ready. We'll have to make adjustments. We always have a backup plan in place," said Neal.

So the big question everyone is asking is how soon can voters expect a final decision from the state's high court?

The Supreme Court hasn't said when it will rule and it doesn't have to say, but the justices certainly didn't waste much time in announcing that they will take the case. That was the second of two one-page orders from the high court Tuesday. The first was truly a "stop the presses" moment.

The printer had cranked out 300,000 ballots without Emanuel's name when the Supreme Court said stop, telling the board of elections the ballots should include the name of petitioner Rahm Emanuel if it's going to print them while this case is pending.

That made Emanuel's attorneys happy. They were up much of the night writing their appeal to the Supreme Court.

"The court has the reputation for acting swiftly when it has to act swiftly, and it's living up to that reputation today," said Kevin Forde, Emanuel's attorney.

A couple hours after the ballot printing decision, the high court said it will consider the Emanuel case.

"I think reversal is a strong possibility," said Prof. David Franklin who teaches constitutional law at DePaul College of Law.

Franklin finds the appellate court decision throwing Emanuel off the ballot interesting, but convoluted - one that seems to remove the emphasis on a candidate's intent.

"The appellate court has some other concept in mind having to do with how many nights a week you lay your head on the pillow in Chicago. It's not quite clear, but it's not the concept that courts are used to dealing with in voter eligibility," said Franklin.

The appellate court ruled that a candidate must physically reside in the city for a year before the election, but it doesn't further define that.

"What happens if you go on extended vacation? What happens if you're a snow bird? At what point to you lose that legal recognition as a resident?" said Prof Lance Northcutt, John Marshall Law School.

That's one of the arguments that the Emanuel side is making: that the appellate court decision is "squarely inconsistent" with existing law, and that it imposes a "vague and uncertain standard."

In its one-paragraph order taking the case, the Supreme Court says there'll be no additional briefs, and oral arguments will not be entertained.

"I think taking the case with arguments or briefs means the decision - one way or the other - is coming very quickly," said Northcutt.

It's entirely possible that very quickly could mean a decision before the end of this week. No briefs or oral arguments means the court will rule based on existing law and what's been presented to and the opinions from the lower courts.

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