Convicted alderman keeps law license after recusals prevent state supreme court from acting

  • Print

AP Ald Ed Burke_800px

Former Ald. Ed Burke of the 14th Ward in Chicago walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after being found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion Dec. 21, 2023, in Chicago. (Photo by Ashlee Rezin/The Chicago Sun-Times via the Associated Press)

A convicted former alderman from Chicago remains licensed to practice law after recusals prevented the Illinois Supreme Court from acting on a petition for an interim suspension.

The Illinois Supreme Court was unable to reach a quorum after a majority of the state supreme court’s seven justices recused themselves from the petition to suspend former Ald. Ed Burke. The state supreme court revealed the result in a Feb. 2 order that came to light in March 11 reports by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, which published a joint story with WBEZ.

Burke was convicted in December 2023 on charges of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion. His wife, Anne Burke, had served on the Illinois Supreme Court from 2006 until her November 2022 retirement. She was chief justice from October 2019 to late October 2022.

Court spokesperson Christopher Bonjean told WBEZ that he thinks that some state constitutions allow the substitution of other judges when there are recusals, “but the Illinois Constitution does not have a provision for that.”

At least four of the Illinois Supreme Court’s seven justices are needed for a quorum. Four of the state supreme court’s present justices were on the Illinois Supreme Court when Anne Burke was there, but there is no indication which justices recused themselves.

When Burke is sentenced in June, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission will be required to file another petition for interim suspension, as called for by court rules, according to the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ.

Burke’s lawyer, Chris Gair, said Burke has not practiced law in a number of years and would like to retire. But attorney discipline officials told Gair that it wasn’t possible for Burke to retire, Gair told the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ.

Burke was convicted “in a city hall shakedown scheme designed to enrich his law firm,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ. He was accused of holding up construction permits if companies did not send their tax appeal work to his former law firm, according to past coverage by the ABA Journal.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.