* As Paul told you yesterday, Speaker Madigan has filed a response to the governor’s lawsuit against him for not convening special sessions at the exact times the governor decreed…
House Speaker Michael Madigan has accused Gov. Rod Blagojevich of acting like a tyrant and asked a circuit judge to throw out the governor’s lawsuit claiming the speaker ignored calls for special legislative sessions, the latest chapter in an increasingly bitter battle between two of the state’s top Democrats.
Blagojevich and Madigan have framed their legal arguments as a question of constitutional authority and abuse of power, centered on the governor’s frequent demands that lawmakers meet to consider topics of his choosing during the record overtime session now in its fourth month.
The governor’s lawsuit accused the speaker of trying to erode Blagojevich’s “constitutional and statutory powers” by not ensuring House members showed up at the times the governor requested. Madigan fired back in an open letter to lawmakers Monday that accompanied his legal response, arguing Blagojevich used the special sessions to punish lawmakers who don’t agree with him.
‘’The governor’s actions are far beyond the bounds of political gamesmanship,'’ Madigan wrote in a 58-page response to the lawsuit, which Gov. Blagojevich slapped on him a month ago for refusing to call special sessions at the specific times Blagojevich wanted during the Legislature’s record-breaking budget stalemate.
‘’Though his means may be the legal mechanism of a lawsuit, his ends traverse into a dark realm that ultimately seeks to replace the rule of law with rule by a single man,'’ said the response filed Monday in Sangamon County Circuit Court.
“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.
* And more…
He goes on to say that “besides his evident contempt for fundamental constitutional principles, Governor Blagojevich has also done the legislative process harm through his gross abuse of the power to call special sessions.”
Madigan says Blagojevich has called 33 special sessions in five years. In contrast, he writes, the 39 governors who preceeded him called a combined 89 special sessions since 1818.
* The governor’s response…
Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said the administration is standing up for the governor’s constitutional authority and would welcome a resolution out of court if Madigan would comply.
“We don’t care where the question is resolved — whether it’s in a courtroom, or out of a courtroom,” Rausch wrote in an e-mailed statement. “We just care about making sure the Constitution is upheld.”
This particular lawsuit is in front of the same
judge court as the governor’s other suit, which attempted to force Madigan’s clerk to enroll the veto messages in a timely manner. Judge Kelley wanted a settlement, but Blagojevich rejected that idea and demanded a hearing. The judge tossed the case and the governor’s office claimed victory. This time around, the governor’s office is being a bit more humble, but not a lot.
…Adding… as OneMan points out, Fergus v. Marks is a major part of the Speaker’s argument against the governor’s lawsuit…
Similarly, in Fergus v. Marks, 321 Ill. 510, 152 N.E. 557 (1923), the Illinois Supreme Court refused to compel the General Assembly to assemble for the purpose of passing a legislative redistricting law, despite the fact that twenty years had passed since the previous enactment and notwithstanding the clear violation of an explicit constitutional command that “[t]he General Assembly shall apportion the state every ten years.” Ill. Const. 1870, Art. IV, § 6. Based on the principle of separation of powers, the Court was unwilling to compel the General Assembly to act even when that legislative body had a clear constitutional obligation to do so, because the Constitution left that obligation solely to the General Assembly.
Similarly, here the Governor seeks to compel the House to assemble session in concert (or so he claims) with a constitutional provision. As in Fergus, this Court should decline to enter into the legislative procedural arena, regardless of whether a constitutional provision has been breached. (Footnote: While Fergus construed the 1870 Constitution, the Supreme Court has relied on that case in interpreting the 1970 Constitution, which incorporated these same separation-of-powers principles.)
Madigan’s entire brief can be downloaded here.