Even when a judge asks Gov. Rod Blagojevich to sit down and negotiate in good faith, he can't bring himself to do it.
As you may know by now, Sangamon County Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley dismissed Gov. Blagojevich's lawsuit against the House Clerk last Thursday.
The governor maintained that the Clerk violated the state Constitution on September 4th when the House met for a regular session and his $500 million vetoes from the state budget weren't entered into the House Journal. The Constitution specifically requires that veto messages be entered "immediately" and then gives the originating chamber (the House, in this case) 15 days to take action.
The governor's lawyers were demanding that Judge Kelley force the House to retroactively enter the message into the Journal, which would have meant that by last Thursday's court date, the September 19th deadline would have already passed for any action on the overrides.
Judge Kelley said in open court when announcing the case's dismissal that complying with the governor's wishes by requiring that the House forfeit its right to act on the vetoes "would be a grave injustice not only to members of the House, but also the people of Illinois who have the right to see the legislative process run its course."
But there's more to this than first meets the eye. Attorneys for House Speaker Michael Madigan and the governor had been meeting with Judge Kelley behind closed doors to discuss the case. Kelley obviously wanted to see a settlement rather than get the courts involved in a Constitutional battle between two feuding branches of government, sources from both sides said. Since the House had already scheduled an early veto session for October 2nd, Kelley suggested that the chamber "enroll" the veto message on Monday the 17th, which would allow for an up or down vote on the first day of the veto session. The House had earlier offered to enroll the message on Wednesday the 19th, but decided to comply with the judge's wishes to avoid open litigation and a possible loss.
That wasn't good enough for the governor's office, however, which can't seem to come to an agreement with Madigan on anything this year. The governor demanded a full hearing on Thursday and lawyers from both sides filed their briefs. The governor's attorneys demanded that Kelley order the House to backdate the Journal entry to September 4th, flatly denied that the case was "mooted" by the September 17th action, and generally stuck to its guns.
To the reporters present at the hearing, it appeared that Kelley stuck it to the governor but good. Not only did he have harsh words for the governor's case, he also slammed the "Hatfields and McCoys" atmosphere of the never-ending legislative session that has pitted Madigan and Blagojevich against each other all year.
Later, the governor's office attempted to put the best possible spin on the result, insisting that it was their lawsuit which forced Madigan to enroll the messages on Monday instead of Wednesday and call a Committee of the Whole for October 1st instead of waiting until later in that week to debate the vetoes. They're right about that, but the fact remains that they insisted upon last Thursday's formal hearing and they lost. Plus, moving up the veto vote is a pretty minor point, particularly when any good lawyer will comply with a judge's strongly stated desire to reach a settlement rather than take a case to an open hearing.
Also, the Senate met last week and didn't enter any of the governor's veto messages into its own Journal. The governor's claim that he is simply attempting to uphold his Constitutional right to a speedy hearing on his vetoes would have been strengthened if he had added the Senate to his lawsuit after Monday's Senate session.
Instead, by failing to include the Senate the governor's case was exposed for what it really was: A bogus judicial extension of his intense political fight with the House Speaker.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com