Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit against U.S. Senate for Denying Senate Seat to Roland Burris
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of an Illinois resident against the United States Senate for denying former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris his rightful position as the junior Senator from Illinois. In accordance with the U.S. Constitution and Illinois state law, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed Burris to fill the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama. Nonetheless, at the direction of Senate leaders, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erikson rejected Mr. Burris’ appointment and has denied him entry to the U.S. Senate. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of John Vincent, a longtime Illinois resident. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and names as defendants the United States Senate, and its Secretary and Sergeant At Arms.
According to the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a state’s governor, with authority from the legislature, may appoint a Senator in the event of a vacancy. Illinois law specifically states: "When a vacancy shall occur in the office of the United States Senator from this state, the Governor shall make temporary appointment to fill such vacancy until the next election of representatives in Congress, at which time such vacancy shall be filled by election, and the senator so elected shall take office as soon thereafter as he shall receive his certificate of election."
Moreover, according to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit: "The U.S. Constitution guarantees Plaintiff the right to representation by two U.S. Senators in the U.S. Senate… [Therefore, the U.S. Senate’s] refusal to allow Mr. Burris to be sworn in as the junior U.S. Senator from the State of Illinois and to otherwise occupy his rightful position as member of the U.S. Senate violates the U.S. Constitution."
"Blagojevich may be a crook but the Burris appointment is consistent with the law and must be respected. The Senate has no legal authority to deny Mr. Burris his rightful position in the U.S. Senate. The citizens of Illinois are entitled to full representation in the United State Senate," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "Few have been more critical of Blagojevich than Judicial Watch, but the law is the law."
For several years, Judicial Watch has investigated the corrupt activities of Blagojevich, who was arrested on December 9, 2008 for attempting to "sell" the Obama seat, among other corruption charges. On Thursday, December 18, 2008, Judicial Watch Director of Litigation Paul Orfanedes testified before Illinois House Special Investigative Committee considering impeachment of Governor Blagojevich.