The Illinois Supreme Court has consolidated appeals to the Fourth District Appellate Court involving Gov. Bruce Rauner’s declaration that negotiations with a state labor union have reached impasse and that workers' contracts have expired.

For more than a year and a half, the state has operated without an approved budget, which has resulted in labor-related legal action in Chicago, Springfield and Belleville.

On the question of consolidating appeals, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) asked the Supreme Court to move the cases being challenged at the First District in Chicago and Fourth District in Springfield to the First District, which had previuosly ruled in its favor.

Rauner had asked the Justices to consolidate those cases at the Fourth District, which previously ruled in his favor.

Fourth District judges, which will now hear the consolidated appeals, branded the simultaneous review as an offense, calling it "apparent forum shopping."

“Not only was it perversely unhelpful to split this matter up between the First District and the Fourth District, but the apparent forum shopping insults both districts by implying that they are sympathetic to one party or the other and that they therefore lack judicial integrity,” justices wrote.

The last approved state budget expired on June 30, 2015; collective bargaining agreements between the state and its unions expired on the same date.

To preserve their normal payroll, the unions sued Rauner in St. Clair County, and the case was assigned to Circuit Judge Robert LeChien.

Last Tuesday's Supreme Court consolidation order followed a move by state Attorney General Lisa Madigan who on Jan. 26 sought to intervene in the case being heard in LeChien's court.

Madigan wants to dissolve, by Feb. 28, a preliminary injunction that LeChien ordered which requires state workers be paid in the absence of a budget. If dissolved, workers would not get paid.

As of Monday afternoon, a hearing date has not been set in the case. 

In the meantime, the Fifth District heard a dispute involving an order LeChien signed - in the union's favor - which preserved the status quo under the old contract. The Fifth District ruled that the legal basis for LeChien’s order no longer existed because the state Labor Relations Board, which declared an impasse, took formal action after he signed it.

They issued a mandate on Jan. 27, directing LeChien to “make a determination on the temporary restraining order under the facts as they currently exist.”

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