Justices: Burris appointment valid even without White's signature

Chris Rizo Jan. 9, 2009, 3:48pm


Roland Burris's appointment to the U.S. Senate by embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich is valid, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

The high court specifically found Friday that Burris's appointment was valid under state law even without Secretary of State Jesse White's signature. The court said it would not force White to sign Burris's appointment papers.

"Under the Secretary of State Act, the Secretary's sole responsibility was to register the appointment, which he did," Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier of Nashville wrote in a nine-page opinion.

"No further action is required by the secretary of state or any other official to make the governor's appointment of Roland Burris to the United States Senate valid under Illinois law," the Republican justice added.

Senate leaders have resisted seating Burris, partly because the governor was arrested last month on charges he tried to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for political and personal favors.

For his part, Burris has testified that he had not been involved in any "pay-to-play" activities to gain Blagojevich's appointment.

In its ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court said it found nothing in the rules of the U.S. Senate that require the secretary of state's signature to seat a prospective member.

"Moreover, no explanation has been given as to how any rule of the Senate, whether it be formal or merely a matter of tradition, could supersede the authority to fill vacancies conferred on the states by the federal constitution," the justices said.

Despite the ruling, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Burris won't be seated without the Illinois secretary of state's signature.

Even so, Burris said in a statement that he was pleased with the court's decision.

"I am very happy that the Supreme Court ruled supporting our argument that everything surrounding this appointment was legal and complete.
This appointment meets the qualifications required by the U.S. Senate of all gubernatorial appointees to fill vacated seats," he said.

"After addressing the Illinois House Special Investigative Committee yesterday affirming that there was nothing questionable surrounding my appointment by the Governor, I am confident I have cooperated with all the requests of the U. S. Senate and I expect they will validate my credentials and seat me in a timely manner," Burris added.

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