To the Editor:
Illinois had another governor not so long ago who showed pure contempt for the institutions of government and who vilified others to try and get his way. Is history repeating itself with a new governor skirting the rule of law and condemning our democratic system of checks and balances by castigating anybody not toeing his line?
Gov. Bruce Rauner has attacked public employees, the organizations representing them, other elected officials, and now the entire Illinois Supreme Court. He reportedly said he doesn’t “trust the Supreme Court to be rational in their decisions” and that the high court justices are part of a larger “corrupt” system of Illinois government – a system that, naturally, appears to include everybody but him.
Why has Rauner suddenly turned his ire to the Supreme Court? The timing is no accident; the court is preparing to rule on whether the state had the authority to cut the retirement benefits that were promised to public workers. Rauner, a multi-millionaire who used his personal fortune to vaunt himself into elected office for the first time, wants to delegitimize the high court’s decision before it even occurs.
Under our state’s Constitution, the justices of the Supreme Court serve 10-year terms once elected. That term is more than twice the length of the governor’s term because the Constitution’s framers sought to insulate the state’s highest court from the whimsical winds of politics. The intent was so justices would stay focused on applying the law to the facts of a case – without having to concern themselves with reckless and dangerous chiding from the likes of a Rauner, who is showing already, barely three months into his first term, all the signs of being a bully.
The fact is, Illinois has an excellent Supreme Court. Democracy permits all of our citizens to agree or disagree with their individual decisions. The seven justices are men and women duly elected by their fellow citizens (as was Rauner) and have long and distinguished careers. It is outrageous, irresponsible and anti-democratic for Rauner to smear them, claim they are dishonest for doing their duty to the constitutions and laws of the United States and Illinois, and to offer no proof or support for his incredibly reckless and dangerous allegations.
Rauner’s perspective is shaped by a career in cutthroat private equity. He made his millions buying and squeezing other companies – tossing workers from their jobs, forcing creditors into bankruptcy court, and compromising the quality of those businesses’ services – all in the name of boosting his phenomenally huge returns. He’s used to acting alone and without constraint, but that approach does not work for government.
He’s the same man who claimed, “I've been successful at everything I've ever done,” and who allegedly once threatened the financial security of the family of a woman working for him for having the temerity to challenge him in court, and who recently, graphically, pledged to “rip the economic guts out of Indiana.” The people of Illinois would do well to keep a much closer eye on Bruce Rauner and what he’s truly up to.
Our state cannot afford to once again become the scorched remnant of another vengeful bully.
John D. Cooney
President, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
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Illinois Supreme Court
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