Weather Updates

Justice Burke has abstained from other Chicago election cases, records show

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Now that Rahm Emanuel has been tossed off the mayoral ballot by an appeals court, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) and his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke, will each have a role in Chicago’s mayoral election.

Ed Burke, the city’s most powerful alderman, has said he’s backing Gery Chico — a former staff member for Burke and Mayor Daley who’s trailed Emanuel in every poll on the mayor’s race.

And now Anne Burke and her six fellow Supreme Court justices will have the final decision on whether Emanuel can run for mayor in the Feb. 22 election.

Emanuel asked the Supreme Court on Monday to reverse the decision of the appellate court judges who tossed him off the ballot earlier in the day. That ruling overruled a circuit court judge and the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, who had found that Emanuel was a legal resident of the city during the past year even while living in Washington and working as President Obama’s White House chief of staff.

Since being appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court in April 2006, Anne Burke has abstained from voting on three other cases involving the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, according to court records reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Better Government Association.

She “took no part” in two rulings on Feb. 23, 2007, when the state’s high court overturned the election board, ruling that two former Chicago aldermen — Virgil Jones and Ambrosio Medrano — couldn’t seek election to the City Council seats they’d lost when they were convicted on corruption charges.

Justice Burke also abstained on Jan. 19, 2007, when the Supreme Court upheld elections that had banned alcohol sales in two Chicago precincts despite ballots that contained incorrect Chinese-language translations.

Since Burke joined the court, it has made more than 10,000 rulings. Burke has abstained 99 times — the most on the court, records show. Over the same period, Justice Bob Thomas, the former Chicago Bears kicker, abstained 56 times. Justice Thomas Fitzgerald, who retired in October, abstained 40 times. The four other justices — Charles Freeman, Rita Garman, Lloyd Karmeier and Thomas Kilbride — abstained 22 times each.

The justices don’t explain why they step aside from hearing or voting on a case, and there’s no law or court rule that requires them to do so. Freeman, though, has provided the court clerk with a “recusal list’’ showing potential conflicts of interest that might prompt him to abstain from voting. The court has refused to disclose that list. It’s unclear whether the other justices have such “recusal lists.’’

Justice Burke “took no part” in two cases involving the city of Chicago, court records show — one involving a condemnation case for O’Hare Airport expansion and the other over the city’s emergency medical response to a 5-year-old boy who died.

She didn’t step aside from every case the court heard involving the city of Chicago. In 2008, she ruled against the city in a case involving a 5 percent franchise tax on cable-modem service revenues. And, in 2009, she authored an opinion in favor of a Chicago police officer who had been denied duty-disability benefits.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.