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Burris sues to certify Senate appointment, will go to D.C.
Fitzgerald asks for more time with indictments
By Rob Olmstead | Daily Herald Staff

Roland Burris said he plans to be in Washington D.C. next week when new seantors are sworn in, but said he won't cause a scene if he's turned away.

 

Associated Press

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wants more time to return an indictment against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

 

Associated Press

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White refused the governor's apointment letter.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 12/31/2008 11:02 AM | Updated: 1/1/2009 12:16 AM

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One day after Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced his appointment as U.S. senator, Roland Burris was rebuffed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Burris took the matter to the Illinois Supreme Court just a few hours later.

As part of the appointment process, White must certify Blagojevich's letter appointing Burris to the Senate. At 10:30 a.m., the governor's office attempted to deliver the appointment letter to White's office, but it was refused, said White spokesman Dave Druker.

Later in the day, shortly before the Illinois Supreme Court's office's closed, Burris' attorney, Timothy W. Wright, filed a complaint with the court asking it to force White to certify the document.

"The statute imposes an unconditional obligation on the Secretary of State," wrote Wright. "Petitioners request that this Court ... issue a writ of mandamus compelling the Secretary of State to countersign and affix the state seal to the Governor's commission appointing Roland Burris to the United States Senate."

The document did not appear to request an expedited hearing by the court and the time frame for when the court might address the matter was uncertain. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will defend White in court, said a spokeswoman, but she, too, had no idea when a hearing might occur.

Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald asked for more time to return an indictment against Blagojevich, saying the time is needed to review evidence and interview more potential defendants in the corruption investigation.

On another front, Burris told the Associated Press that he will travel to Washington, D.C., Tuesday when new senators are being sworn in and will seek to be admitted. He said he would not make a scene if refused.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 49 other senators said they will not seat Burris because, while they respect Burris, they view any appointment made by the governor as tainted. Blagojevich's pick became tainted when federal investigators alleged he previously had offered to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. There are no allegations that Burris was involved.

Whether the senators can legally refuse Burris' appointment is questionable, but merely by refusing to admit Burris and forcing him to go to court, they may be able to delay his seating until the term expires in 2010.

Blagojevich's appointment of Burris also throws into question what Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn can do if he takes over as governor in the event of an impeachment of Blagojevich, which the Illinois legislature is considering.

"If I'm the governor, I would appoint temporarily - until a special election can take place - a person of high integrity and competence," Quinn said Wednesday when pressed on the possibility, although he called such talk premature speculation.

Quinn said he was uncertain if he would have the legal authority to undo the Burris appointment and name a replacement should he become governor.

"I don't know. I would have to investigate the legal aspects of that," Quinn said.

A better course, he said, would be for Burris to refuse the appointment and for Blagojevich to rescind it and step down from office.

He also denied a rumor that he would appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan as senator in a deal backed by Democratic power brokers that would reward him with support for re-election as governor.

"There is no truth to that rumor whatsoever," he said.

But he did say that Madigan "has done an exemplary job" as attorney general and that her integrity and competence place her among the people he would consider appointing should it come to that.

Meanwhile, Burris and supporter Bobby Rush hit the television interview circuit Wednesday trying to drum up support for his appointment.

The 90-day extension Fitzgerald wants would give prosecutors until April 7 to file an indictment. Under law, federal prosecutors normally have 30 days to file an indictment against a defendant. That deadline would have been Jan. 7.

But prosecutors say they need more time to review phone calls intercepted between late October and early December and interview more witnesses.

"Multiple witnesses have come forward in recent weeks to discuss their knowledge of criminal activity in relation to the ongoing investigation," according to Wednesday's motion.

The document also hints at the possibility that more individuals could be charged.

"The government has been conducting a diligent and thorough investigation in this case, but the investigation includes multiple defendants and potential defendants," according to the document.

U.S. Attorney spokesman Randall Samborn declined to give further details.

According to the motion, attorneys for Blagojevich and his former chief of staff John Harris, who was arrested with the governor on Dec. 9, have not objected to the extension.

Blagojevich attorney Ed Genson declined to comment Wednesday morning, saying he does not comment on pending litigation.

A federal judge is scheduled to review the motion at a court hearing Monday afternoon.

Senate: Quinn denies he's decided on Madigan for the post