What's the next legal step for Emanuel?

January 24, 2011 5:09:01 PM PST
After the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that Rahm Emanuel does not meet the residency requirement to be on the ballot next month, many are asking what is the next legal step for him and his bid for Chicago mayor.

Emanuel's legal argument was that his home was on the North Side, he voted in the city, his absence was due to the fact that he was serving the president of the United States as chief of staff, and his intent was always to return to Chicago.

"Residency still has been primarily in most states a question of intent, and I don't think there's any question about his intent," said Dawn Clark Netsch, professor, Northwestern University School of Law.

In its 2-1 ruling the appellate court acknowledges that Emanuel was in service to the United States, but that's not an exception that saves his candidacy. The court's majority opinion is that he "...must have actually resided within the municipality for one year prior to the election." In other words, you must have a physical presence in the city to be a candidate. Read the Appellate Court Decision (PDF)

"Everybody agrees Emanuel can vote, but the disagreement is whether he can run. The 2-1 decision is very close. Will the Supreme Court take it? My guess is yes, they'd be foolish not to," said Harold Krent, dean, Kent IIT Kent College of law.

But the election is four weeks away, and the appellate court decision, at least for the moment, changes the political dynamic. Most significantly, the primary ballots will be printed without Rahm Emanuel's name on it.

"The ballot that we have now started printing will not contain the name of Rahm Emanuel," said Langdon Neal of the Chicago Board of Elections

But what if the Supreme Court puts Emanuel back on the ballot?

"We will have to make adjustments. But as of right now, we are proceeding presumably with the appellate court's order," said Neal.

"For the candidates, this gives the race new energy for those people that thought Rahm Emanuel might be winning this thing on February 22nd with 50 plus 1 percent. Certainly, if he's put back on the ballot and the others haven't can't take advantage that he's been struggling in court, then he serves to win this thing," said Thom Serafin, political consultant.

Emanuel is asking the seven-member state Supreme Court to overrule the appellate court decision, but the Supreme Court must first vote on whether they'll hear the case. The expectation is, they will.

"They're obviously going to look at it very carefully. I shouldn't say they won't be influenced by the appellate court decision, but they're not going to be bound by it, because this is a very important question in sense both of law and public policy if you will," said Netsch.

If the state's high court chooses to hear the case, the justices could simply rule, or they could ask for written opinion, or oral arguments.