State Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court building in Springfield.

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Short takes from the news of the week.

One of the all-time-great scoundrels in American political history died earlier this week.

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, also a former federal prison inmate, was 93. If Illinois’ garden variety political crooks had Edwards’ charm, people wouldn’t despise hem so much.

The suave Edwards was in a class of his own. He was a felon with a song, dance, smile and, most importantly, sense of humor — the very embodiment of a likeable rogue.

He was a master of the political quip.

His all-best quip — one of the best ever all-time quips — came when he was running for governor in 1983. Confidently predicting victory, Edwards said, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”

SCOUNDREL TIME?Speaking of marginal — allegedly — politicians, former state Sen. Sam McCann wants a delay in his corruption trial.

His court-appointed lawyer, Rosana Brown, contends a four-month delay is necessary because the government has buried her under more than 64,000 pages of discovery material. She said she needs “discovery review software” to familiarize herself with the complex nature of McCann’s alleged financial crimes.

She hinted that the case might not go to trial but said she needs a delay anyway because she must be prepared to “negotiate with the government.”

Unless McCann is foolishly stubborn or actually innocent, it’s hard to imagine this case going to trial. Federal prosecutors laid out all kinds of specifics in an indictment that charged the former Macoupin County state senator with, among other things, money laundering and income-tax evasion.

The onetime Illinois Senate Republican left the GOP in 2018 to run a pointless third-party campaign for governor. He collected millions of dollars in donations from Democratic labor unions that hoped supporting McCann’s candidacy would draw votes from then-Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and boost the ultimately successful campaign of Democrat J.B. Pritzker.

The government alleges McCann, a businessman with severe personal financial problems, received more than $5 million in donations and used a large portion of that money for personal expenses.

REDISTRICTING LITIGATION

A three-judge federal panel hearing a challenge to the constitutionality of newly-drawn state legislative maps has set a tentative Sept. 27-29 trial.

Illinois Republicans and a group representing Hispanics filed separate lawsuits challenging the validity of the maps that have been consolidated.

One legal expert — Harvard’s Nick Stephanopoulos — suggests the challengers are fighting an uphill battle to get the maps thrown out. But it’s the Republicans’ and Hispanics’ only option to prevent being further marginalized for another 10 years.

Legislative Democrats drew the maps without the U.S. Census figures normally used as part of the reapportionment process. Instead, they used population estimates, wrongly according to the Republicans and Hispanics.

As a consequence, the groups argue, House and Senate districts Democrats drew are unequal in size and in violation of the one-man, one-vote principal.

Ironically, powerhouse Democratic lawyer Mike Kasper lent credence to that claim by suggesting the case is not yet “ripe” for legal review. He based the argument on his contention the district population size issue can’t be addressed until official census numbers are made public next month.

HIGH-COURT FIGHT

Legislative Democrats gerrymandered four Illinois Supreme Court districts to help maintain their longstanding high-court majority. It’s currently 4-3.

Now a Democratic candidate for the Illinois Supreme Court has announced her candidacy in the new District 2, located just outside Cook County.

Lake County Associate Judge Elizabeth Rochford announced this week she’s running for the Democratic Party’s nomination in next year’s primary election.

So far, no Republicans have officially announced their candidacies. But the general election contest will almost certainly be hard fought.

A judge for nine years, Rochford presides in probate court.

Legislative Democrats decided to redraw the judicial district boundary lines after District 3 Democratic Justice Thomas Kilbride was defeated in his 2020 retention bid.

Another expected hard-fought battle is expected to take place in the new District 3, where appointed DuPage County Justice Michael Burke will be seeking election.

A third justice — Danville’s Rita Garman — is up for retention but has yet to make a decision about seeking a third term.

While the elections are scheduled, the legislature made an inoperable mess of the court’s administrative arrangements. As a consequence, the Supreme Court ordered the pre-redistricting work-related status quo to remain in place while it decides how to implement the dramatic geographical changes super-majority Democrats made.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

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