Some of Chicago's top trial lawyers have joined ranks to keep mayoral hopeful and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on the ballot in the Feb. 22, 2011 election.
Personal injury attorneys Bob Clifford, Tom Demetrio, Patricia Bobb, Kevin Durkin and Tom Leahy were among 48 members of Chicago's legal community who signed onto an amici curiae brief supporting Emanuel's standing as mayoral candidate. Emanuel is a Democrat.
Abner Mikva, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is named first on the list of amici legal elite. Former Illinois Attorneys General Ty Fahner and Neil Hartigan also are among supporters of Emanuel's standing as candidate for Chicago mayor.
Emanuel's challengers have argued that his two-year stint as a top adviser to President Obama in Washington, D.C. -- and that during most of that period he leased his Chicago home – disqualifies him in a bid for mayor. Illinois statute requires mayoral candidates to reside in city at least one year prior to an election.
Chicago Board of Elections hearing officer Joseph Morris denied the supporters' motion for leave to file the amici curiae brief on Dec. 20. Morris is expected to issue a recommendation on the Emanuel challenge to the three-person elections commission Wednesday. The commission is then expected to make a ruling whether to accept or reject Morris's recommendation on Dec. 23.
An appeal of the board's decision would go to a Cook County Circuit Court and potentially up to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The support brief compared Emanuel's hiatus from Chicago to Abraham Lincoln who left Illinois in 1861 to travel to Washington to serve as president.
"Our sixteenth President did not lose his legal tie to Illinois by that act, and Mr. Emanuel did not lose his Chicago residency by leasing his house on a short-term basis while he served President Obama in Washington," the brief states.
In his order denying leave to file the brief, Morris wrote, in part, that "because the proffered brief makes no arguments that the parties have not made or cannot make and because it contains no citations of authority that are not already known and accessible to the Hearing Officer," the brief would not be considered.
Morris, a Chicago attorney, is a conservative Republican. He had worked in the Reagan administration and participated in writing the order firing air traffic controllers.
Madison County connections
Some of the lawyers supporting Emanuel's candidacy have Madison County connections.
Clifford and his firm have made campaign contributions to Madison County officials including $12,500 to former State Rep. Jay Hoffman, a Democrat from Collinsville, who was defeated in November's general election. Clifford's firm also donated $2,000 each to Circuit Judges Barbara Crowder and Dave Hylla.
Durkin had donated $1,000 to Hoffman; Demetrio donated $500 to Hoffman.