Constitutional Law

Hours After Appeal Filing, Top Ill. Court Rules Emanuel Stays on Ballot, Rebukes Appellate Panel

Capping an action-packed appellate week for the Illinois courts, Chicago election officials and a well-known city mayoral candidate, the state’s top court has just ruled—little more than 48 hours after an appeal was filed Tuesday—that former White House aide Rahm Emanuel will stay on the ballot.

In a sharp rebuke of the state court of appeals, it unanimously held in a 21-page opinion today that prior rulings finding Emanuel to be a Chicago resident qualified to run for mayor were supported by long-standing case authority until Monday, when the court of appeals jumped off the track:

“From April 1867 through January 24 of this year, the principles governing the question before us were settled. Things changed, however, when the appellate court below issued its decision and announced that it was no longer bound by any of the [case] law … but was instead free to craft its own original standard for determining a candidate’s residency,” the supreme court says.

“Thus, our review of the appellate court’s decision in this case begins not where it should, with an assessment of whether the court accurately applied established Illinois law to the particular facts, but with an assessment of whether the appellate court was justified in tossing out 150 years of settled residency law in favor of its own preferred standard. We emphatically hold that it was not.”

Two concurring opinions complain of “inflammatory accusations” made in the majority opinion that “serve only to damage the integrity of the judiciary,” notes the Associated Press.

The Chicago Tribune’s Clout Street blog provides a link to the supreme court’s opinion (PDF).

The escalating wild ride through election law began a little over three weeks ago, when a state-court judge denied a residency challenge and said Emanuel was qualified to run for election as Chicago mayor.

But on Monday, a month before the scheduled election, a divided state appeals court said Emanuel did not meet Chicago residency requirements imposed on mayoral candidates by the municipal code. City officials then immediately made arrangements to begin printing ballots without his name on them.

On Tuesday, the state supreme court stayed the appellate order and told Chicago election officials not to print any ballots omitting Emanuel’s name. Officials then stopped the presses and started working to print a different set of ballots that included Emanuel. The court also agreed to accept an emergency appeal of the ballot ruling on an expedited basis and said it would decide the merits based on the appellate court briefing and additional oral argument.

And today the Illinois Supreme Court made its final determination: Emanuel is a resident of Chicago.

Under controlling state law that has been settled since 1867, “residence” is a term of art that does not require an individual’s constant presence in his or her home location, the court explains. The word residence means “permanent abode,” which is determined by both the individual’s physical presence and intention to remain a resident.

“Once a permanent abode is established, residence continues until abandoned,” the court continues, agreeing with earlier decisions reversed by the Illinois Court of Appeals that Emanuel did not abandon his longtime home in Chicago.

Bloomberg, the New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times also have articles.

Last updated at 8:15 p.m. to include Associated Press information and link to Bloomberg, New York Times and Chicago Sun-Times coverage.

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