SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The home addresses of some Illinois judges are likely to become a major issue in 2007 thanks to a recent opinion delivered by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Madigan recently decided that judges who win retention election do not have to live in the region that first elected them. That opinion will likely face future legal challenges, according to an Illinois-based law expert.
Madigan last week released her opinion in response to a March 2004 request by the Judicial Inquiry Board that she clarify the residency requirement issue. Madigan's opinion states that a resident judge first elected from a county or subcircuit "may reside anywhere within that circuit after winning a circuitwide retention election."
But Steve Beckett, Director of Trial Advocacy at the University of Illinois College of Law, says the ruling indicates that Madigan is confusing "selected" judges, who have faced opponents in a popular vote, with "retention-elected" judges, who faced no opposition upon re-elected.
Selected judges may live anywhere in the circuit once they assume the bench, he pointed out, whereas judges retained by election have traditionally lived in their sub-circuit electorate.
"I think most reasonable judges would disagree with the attorney general's opinion on this," Beckett said. "She's saying that selection is the equivalent of having been elected first and then retained.
"I'm not sure the courts will agree with that."
Beckett says that Madigan's ruling essentially means that a candidate who stood and won election as a circuit court judge from an urban electorate could then move to a rural area in the same circuit with no recourse. "Had constituents known that [such a] judge was going to move out of the area, they might have voted differently," he said
Beckett also said he didn't discount the possibility that Madigan's decision was politically motivated, given that it originated from Illinois' fifth congressional district. This district covers much of the north side of Chicago and is held federally by Democratic powerbroker and master fund-raiser Rahm Emmanuel.
"That's where all the action is," Beckett said.