Whether the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners’ ruling this Thursday leaves Rahm on the ballot in the mayor’s race or takes him off, the case will almost certainly end up in the courts. The first step in the appeals process is the Circuit Court of Cook County; then the Illinois Court of Appeals; and after that, the Illinois Supreme Court.
Should that last body not rule Rahm’s way, it’s hard to imagine him accepting the defeat and moving on with his life. If he loses, could Emanuel take his case to the highest court in the country? I called two law professors who said, with some reservations (neither had read the complaint): “Yes, he can.”
DePaul’s Jeffrey Shaman, an expert in constitutional law, said, “If there is a ruling against Rahm Emanuel [in the Illinois Supreme Court] he could argue that the ruling violates his federal constitutional rights.”
If the state’s supreme court rules for Rahm, Shaman adds, “that’s the end of the case. The ruling is on the meaning of election law here, and the Illinois Supreme Court has the final say. There’s no federal issue involved, so the United States Supreme Court would not have jurisdiction.”
Northwestern’s Sam Tenenbaum, who specializes in civil litigation, offered pretty much the same conclusion. If Rahm comes up the loser and challenges the law itself, he could argue “denial of due process or equal protection and ask for a motion for expedited consideration.” (Expedited because the nonpartisan primary is on February 22nd.)
Tenenbaum agrees that if Rahm wins at the state Supreme Court, it’s over for his opponents.
Both he and Shaman were reluctant to hazard a guess as to the outcome of the residency challenge. Tenenbaum called it “a tough question,” but said his “hunch” was that Rahm would win, and that the ruling will “support someone’s right to run for office”—especially “given the factual circumstances Rahm finds himself in… it’s a straight legal question; the facts themselves are not in dispute.”
What is in dispute, of course, is whether those facts show Emanuel to be a resident of Chicago for the last year—or, as the objectors’ attorney Burt Odelson argues, a resident of Washington D.C.