SPRINGFIELD - Frustrated conservatives are demanding that the judges who threw out the Term Limits referendum be ousted the next time they're up for election.
The frustration may be justified. As Illinois Review pointed out earlier this summer, the Democrat Party - which opposed the term limit measure - has put in office the vast majority of Cook County's judges. In addition, the Dems have had a hand in the election of many of the Appellate and the Illinois Supreme Court judges, as well.
In fact, four out of Illinois' seven Supreme Court justices were elected with Democrat Party financial assistance at the behest of House Speaker and Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan.
But what legal reasons did First District Appellate Court Justice Connors give in affirming Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva's decision?
1. Limiting the terms of elected state lawmakers is neither a structural nor a procedural change to the legislature itself. The Illinois Constitution requires a constituional change be both.
2. Providing "free and equal access" to voting requires the individual parts of a constitutional amendment be related to each other. The Court found the proposed amendment has six components:
- established term limits for members of the General Assembly;
- required a two-thirds vote in each house to override a Governor's veto;
- abolished two-year senatorial terms;
- increased the size of the House of Representatives to 123 representatives;
- decreased the size of the Senate to 41 Senators; and
- divided senatorial districts into three representative districts instead of two.
The Court wrote, "We find that these components are separate and unrelated." They further wrote, "Both the term limits and veto provisions could easily stand as independent propositions without affecting the rest of the proposed changes. For these reasons, the proposed amendment is invalid under the free and equal clause."
3. Rushing to meet ballot certification deadlines, the Term Limits Committee ran out of time for appeal procedures. In frustration, they asked for a "premature" ruling that undermined the process. The Court wrote:
As such, [the Illinois Supreme Court's] Rule 316 provides that a party should seek certification after this court renders an opinion on the merits adverse to that party, and certification should be requested either in a petition for rehearing or in a separate petition, but not in the initial appellate brief, as occurred here.
Two days after the Court's decision, the November 4th ballot had to be certified. The Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, so the Appellate Court's ruling and thus, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva's opinion, was allowed to stand.
On the other hand, the November 4th ballot will include two other constitutional amendments that were not citizen-initiated. The Illinois legislature voted with three-fifths majority in both Democrat-controlled chambers to ask Illinois voters to add a voters' rights non-discrimination clause and a crime victims' rights protection section. For passage, the provisions will need to gather the approval of either a simple majority of those pulling a ballot or three-fifths of those voting on the measure itself.