Senator Burris Seeks to Finish His Term

September 21, 2010

Illinois Senator Roland Burris, who was appointed in 2008 by then-Illinois-Governor Rod Blagojevich to serve the remainder of President Obama’s term in the U.S. Senate, has asked the Supreme Court to stay a U.S. District Court judge’s order that a special election be held to fill the remaining six weeks of the term.  Burris’s problem with the decision is that the special election is to be held on November 2 (the same day that Illinois voters will elect a senator for the next six years), and only those candidates seeking a full senate term will appear on the special election ballot.  Burris has chosen not to run for another term, and is thus deprived of a chance to serve an additional six weeks.  According to the Chicago Sun-Times:

Burris has said he wants more time in the Senate to continue what he called his important work on issues including Wall Street reform; health-care; small business legislation and attempts to change the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies.

The Supreme Court petition is available at 2010 WL 3611713.  It outlines the complicated factual and procedural background of this case, and alleges, in part:

Despite the fact that the Seventeenth Amendment grants only the state legislature the power to “direct” an election to fill a vacant Senate seat, the district court found that it could unilaterally “formulate, as necessary, mechanisms for the conduct of a special election …” After refusing Senator Burris’s request for full briefing on the issues, the district court proceeded to limit the field of candidates for the special election to those candidates who already had been added to the ballot for the regular election and to define other aspects of the special election.

This case has not garnered a great deal of media attention, but presents some interesting legal questions.  To be informed of any Supreme Court opinion in this case,  create a WestClip in the SCT database with the following search: ti(burris). Or, track the docket at 10-367.