By Jamey Dunn
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that Rahm Emanuel is eligible to run for mayor of Chicago.
An appellate had ruled Tuesday that Emanuel did not meet the city’s residency requirements and therefore could not run in the February election.
The majority opinion said that the appellate court ignored precedent in its ruling to throw Emanuel off the ballot. “Our review of the appellate court’s decision in this case begins not where it should, with an assessment of whether the court accurately applied established Illinois law to the particular facts, but with an assessment of whether the appellate court was justified in tossing out 150 years of settled residency law in favor of its own preferred standard. We emphatically hold that it was not,” Justice Robert Thomas wrote in the opinion.
Thomas stated that residency is determined by intent. So as long as it was Emanuel’s intent to return to Chicago, it continued to be his city of residence. Intent could be determined by the circumstances of the situation — such as Emanuel continuing to own a house, pay taxes and vote in Chicago.
Justices Charles Freeman and Anne Burke agreed with the ruling but not the logic that led to it. “Suffice it to say, therefore, that this court has not always spoken clearly on what is meant by residency, and the majority should acknowledge this fact. This is why both sides in this dispute can contend that their respective positions are supported by decades of precedent. Indeed, contrary to the majority’s assertions, the only thing that is well-established in this case is the confusion that has existed on this subject,” said the justices in their own separate opinion.
The justices did not agree that intent to return necessarily proved residency. The opinion goes on to say: “We would answer the narrow question that was actually raised by the objectors in this case: Does a person lose his permanent abode if the abode is rented during the relevant residency period? To that question we answer “no.” For that reason alone, we join in the judgment of the majority.”
The differing opinion also warns that the ruling could allow others to make claims of residency based on intent and pave the way for challenges to residency in a wide variety of situations. “It should be noted that today’s decision will raise questions beyond the facts of this case. Because the court holds that residency has one settled meaning, and that meaning rests on a person’s intent, today’s decision will have implications for residency requirements for in-state tuition, residency requirements for municipal employees such as police officers and firefighters, residency requirements for school districts and other similar situations. This court should be prepared to address those issues as firmly and expeditiously as we have done today.”