Illinois AG Asks High Court to Declare Governor Unfit

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - In an unprecedented move, the Illinois
attorney general asked the state's highest court Friday to strip
scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich of his powers.
Lisa Madigan took the action as pressure on the governor
intensified to step down and lawmakers considered impeachment.
"I recognize that this is an extraordinary request, but these
are extraordinary circumstances," Madigan said at a news
conference.
It was not immediately clear when the Supreme Court might take
up the matter. The justices also have the discretion to deny the
attorney general's request.
The move came as the governor prayed with several ministers in
his home before heading to his office, telling them he is innocent
and will be vindicated "when you hear each chapter completely
written," according to one of the pastors.
The attorney general asked the court for a temporary restraining
order or an injunction that prevents Blagojevich from serving as
governor. The filing says he is "unable to serve as governor due
to disability and should not rightfully continue to hold that
office."
"The pervasive nature and severity of these pending charges
disable Mr. Blagojevich from making effective decisions on
critical, time-sensitive issues," the filing said.
The filing asks that the lieutenant governor assume
Blagojevich's powers.
It is the first time in Illinois history that such an action was
taken. The attorney general is applying a rule that was intended to
cover cases where a governor is incapacitated for health reasons.
Her motion indicates that his inability to serve because of the
scandal is akin to a debilitating health issue.
The motion essentially declares that Blagojevich's legal
problems amount to a disability that would not be resolved until he
is either cleared of the charges or leaves office.
"Mr. Blagojevich is unable to distinguish between his financial
interests and his official duties and between illegal acts and
legal conduct, rendering him incapable of legitimately exercising
his ability as governor," Madigan says in the motion.
"His ability to provide effective leadership has been
eliminated and the state government is paralyzed."
The motion came three days after Blagojevich was accused of
putting Barack Obama's Senate seat up for sale and shaking down the
owners of the Chicago Tribune.
The decision to go to the state's highest court was not welcomed
by everyone. Democratic Rep. Jack Franks said it would set "a
dangerous precedent" for the court to remove a governor as Madigan
proposes. Franks, a fierce Blagojevich critic, said that kind of
decision should be left to the General Assembly.
"That's our job, and we should be doing it," he said.
The governor has been alternately holed up in his home or his
downtown office since his arrest on federal corruption charges. He
met with clergymen Friday morning.
The Rev. Ira Acree of the Greater St. John Bible Church said
Blagojevich would not discuss details of the allegations against
him.
He said the governor discussed trying to get a legal and
political consultation team in place, but feels as if everything is
closing in on him and that he's not getting "any space or chance
to sort anything out."
Acree and two other pastors - The Rev. Steve Jones, president of
the Baptist Pastor's Conference, and the Rev. Marshall Hatch of the
New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church - arrived at the
governor's home shortly after 8 a.m. and met with him for about 20
minutes.
Jones said they prayed with Blagojevich and his family.
"I look at it like this: Everybody that's hurting needs hope
and the family needs hope and that's what our jobs are as
pastors," Jones said. "Nobody should be left hopeless. Nobody, no
matter what the circumstances."
Shortly after they left, a fourth minister, the Rev. Leonard
Barr of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, arrived at the
governor's house with his wife, Rita.
He said they were invited by the governor and that the two
"prayed that he would continue to be a great governor for the
state of Illinois."
Meanwhile, calls for the governor to step down are intensifying.
The lieutenant governor has joined a bevy of lawmakers in demanding
that Blagojevich be impeached, saying he has become an
embarrassment to the state and can no longer lead. His approval
rating plummeted to a shockingly low 8 percent.
"When you have no confidence from the people, in a democracy
there's nowhere else to go but to resign," Lt. Pat Quinn said
Thursday.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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