Ill. Supreme Court: White doesn't need to sign

January 9, 2009 6:20:12 PM PST
The Illinois Supreme Court rejected a request from Roland Burris to force Secretary of State Jesse White to sign his appointment to the U.S. Senate.The state's highest court says, in their view, Roland Burris doesn't need the signature to be seated.

The question now is, do senators agree? The answer, could be "no."

Two days ago, inside the United States Capitol, Senate leaders made themselves crystal clear.

"We've had a rule in effect since 1884 here in the Senate that, for a person to be appointed by a governor, you have to have the signature of the governor and the secretary of state," said Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.

"Everyone has to present a certificate signed by the governor, co-signed by the secretary of state, never been waived in the history of the United States Senate," Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said.

At issue: The lack of a signature by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White on the letter Governor Blagojevich wrote appointing Roland Burris to the Senate.

"Nothing in the published rules of the Senate...appears to require that Senate appointments made by state executives...must be signed and sealed by the state's secretary of state," read a statement from the court.

The court also seemed to be saying it could find no legal reason for senators to block Roland Burris from taking the Senate seat.

Justices wrote, "No explanation has been given as to how any rule of the Senate, whether it be formal or merely a matter of tradition, could supersede the authority to fill vacancies conferred on the states by the federal constitution."

"This ballgame is in the hands of the United States Senate. It's no longer in the hands of Illinois," Secretary White said.

"The only people blocking Roland Burris from becoming a U.S. senator are now the senators themselves," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

Late Friday afternoon, there were signs that the Senate might not be willing to compromise, given the political unrest in Illinois.

"I think it's best to suspend activities until this impeachment trial in the Illinois state Senate is concluded," Durbin said.

Roland Burris released a statement Friday: "This appointment meets the qualifications required by the U.S. Senate of all Gubernatorial appointees to fill vacated seats. 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," he said.