Decision coming on Emanuel residency challenge

December 21, 2010 (CHICAGO) After hearing officer Joseph Morris makes his decision, the Board of Election Commissioners will vote on the ruling this Thursday.

The decision follows 30 hours of testimony and several written briefs.

For three days, Morris sat, listened, and played referee during the often-contentious Rahm Emanuel residency hearing.

Morris, 59, a lawyer known for his bow ties and conservative politics, will soon recommend whether or not Emanuel should be on the ballot.

The decision will then rest with three Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, including Chairman Langdon Neal, who will consider Morris's recommendation as a compilation of fact.

"Because we can't hear days and days of testimony in terms of the evidence, we rely on them to synthesize the evidence and report the facts to us," said Neal.

Regardless of how commissioners rule on Thursday, myriad court challenges are expected, and the decision could be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

"If people say, sure he's a resident of Chicago, it might just stop there," said University of Chicago law professor Douglas Baird. "Now, if it goes the other way, then I think it will go all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court."

Last week's hearing was circus-like at times with attorneys and citizen objectors questioning Emanuel directly.

Emanuel said he always intended to return to his home on N. Hermitage and his attorneys produced photos claiming to show valuable family possessions being stored on the property.

"Chicago has always been our home and it's been my home," said Emanuel during the hearing. "It has been my home during college, from the time I worked for President Clinton or the time I worked for President Obama."

Emanuel's objectors, some of whom are represented by attorney Burt Odelson, said Emanuel should be kicked off the ballot because he hasn't lived in Chicago for a year as required.

They argued Emanuel had no intention of returning from Washington and thus rented his home and even extended the lease.

Those three Board of Elections commissioners scheduled to meet Thursday morning at 69 W. Washington. They could also hear additional arguments from objectors or Rahm Emanuel's attorneys. The ruling does not have to be unanimous.

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