Madigan seeks suit's dismissal
Saying Gov. Rod Blagojevich's repeated calls for special sessions this summer amounted to "imprisonment" of Illinois House members, Speaker Michael Madigan asked a judge Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the governor over who has authority to set the date and time of special sessions.
In addition to filing a 58-page rebuttal to the lawsuit, Madigan sent a scathing letter to all state lawmakers.
"The governor's recent tactics should be seen for what they really are: an assault on the legislative process, members of the General Assembly, state Constitution, and, most importantly, the citizens of Illinois," Madigan wrote.
"The governor's actions are far beyond the bounds of political gamesmanship," the letter said. "Though his means may be the legal mechanism of a lawsuit, his ends traverse into the dark realm that ultimately seeks to replace the rule of law with rule by a single man. It is in the best interest of any democratic republic that incipient tyrannical behavior and tendencies be recognized and rebuked whenever they rear their ugly heads."
Blagojevich went to court in August to try to force Madigan to hold special sessions on specific days and at specific times set by the governor. The suit also demanded that Madigan ensure more than half of House members be present for the sessions.
Madigan has not always convened the House at the time set by Blagojevich, and on many occasions, far fewer than half the House showed up.
Blagojevich said his constitutional powers to call special sessions were being "eradicated" by Madigan, especially after the speaker told House members to ignore special-session orders after the General Assembly passed a new state budget in mid-August.
In his response to the lawsuit, Madigan called Blagojevich's use of special sessions "an unprecedented misuse of executive authority."
Blagojevich chose inconvenient times for the sessions "for the apparent purpose of doing nothing more than punishing lawmakers who refused to pass his preferred legislation," Madigan wrote.
"He seeks to control the start of the special sessions because he wants to force lawmakers to remain in Springfield indefinitely, with the hope that his effective imprisonment will force members to the point of exhaustion and capitulation to do his will."
Madigan said the Illinois Constitution does not allow the governor to tell the House when to meet. The suit also should be thrown out of court, he argued, because the governor failed to include the Senate in the lawsuit, because the speaker cannot be sued for his actions in the House and because the dispute is a political one outside of the purview of the courts.
Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said the governor believes he has the constitutional authority to tell the House when to meet but that the office is open to a settlement.
"We don't care where the question is resolved - whether it's in a courtroom or out of a courtroom," Rausch said in an e-mailed statement. "If the speaker is prepared to comply with the constitution without a direct court order ... we would welcome that."
The special-sessions feud started in early July.
Last week, Sangamon County Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley dismissed another Blagojevich lawsuit, this one against House Clerk Mark Mahoney. The issue was how fast Mahoney was required to record the governor's budget cuts.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or email@example.com.