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Ex-Supreme Court justice doesn't believe court can remove governor
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff

S. Louis Rathje


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Published: 12/15/2008 1:11 PM

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Former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Louis Rathje believes Attorney General Lisa Madigan's request for the state's highest court to remove Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office is beyond the court's powers.

"Lisa Madigan is doing a stretch and is pushing this as far as she can go to see what she can do," Rathje said Monday in a telephone interview. "Hopefully, he'll just resign."

On Friday, Madigan called on the state Supreme Court to strip Blagojevich of his powers following his arrest last week on federal corruption charges. She argued that the governor can no longer do his job with any "legitimacy."

Madigan's request is based on an obscure rule that has been in existence only since the 1970s and has never been used to oust a seated governor before.

Rathje said he was not up to date on the specifics of the statute that allows elected officials to be removed from office, but believes it can only be done in the case of "physical of mental" incapacitation. He said the statute is very narrow, "as it should be."

It's unclear how the court will respond to Madigan's request and how long it will take them to come to any decision.

"It's all new ground they're going to be plowing," Rathje said. "All of this will be taken in stride and you know how long some of those cases can take."

Rathje is a former circuit and appeals court judge who was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1999. His term ended in December 2000 and he returned to his private law practice in Wheaton. He sits on several boards and commissions and is chairman of the DuPage Water Commission.