Illinois (ECWd) -
We first exposed a May 20, 2020 letter from Attorney General Raoul to Senate President Harmon in this article. The request to the AG from Senate President Harmon was pretty simple. Did a prior Attorney General opinion consider all the legislative history of the Emergency Management Agency Act?
The answer should have been a simple response of NO, it did not.
Why AG Raoul took 15-pages to provide such an answer speaks volumes, but the question everyone should know the answer to is why didn't the prior AG opinion consider all the legislative history?
That response is simple as well.
"Any question of statutory interpretation begins with looking at the plain language of the statute to discover its original intent. To discover a statute's original intent, courts first look to the words of the statute and apply their usual and ordinary meanings.
If after looking at the language of the statute the meaning of the statute remains unclear, courts attempt to ascertain the intent of the legislature by looking at legislative history and other related sources. Courts generally steer clear of any interpretation that would create an absurd result which the Legislature did not intend.
The prior opinion was crystal clear to those reading it as it cited the law. "Upon such proclamation, the Governor shall have and may exercise for a period not to exceed 30 days the following emergency powers;
Now that the Governor is facing lawsuits over this very portion of the law, the chain of events is most telling.
- April 23, 2020, Representative Darren Bailey sued the Governor and one of the claims was that the Governor exceeded his power by going beyond the 30 days. As outlined in the Rules of Statutory Construction, the first step in any question of interpretation begins with looking at the plain language of the statute to discover its original intent. Bailey did that and believed the Governor violated the law. The next step was to go to court. Under the same rules, the court must first look to the words of the statute and apply their usual and ordinary meanings.
- April 27, 2020, The Judge in Clay County did just that!
"The issue before me now is whether the Governor can ignore the Illinois and United States Constitutions for more than 30 days. This court rules that the answer to that question is a resounding no." (page 66 of the transcript)
Considering the court had no problem understanding the plain language of the statute, there was no need to ascertain the intent of the legislature by looking at legislative history. This is important to know because the ruling against the Governor came on April 27, 2020.
- May 18th, 2020, Bailey filed a Summary Judgement Motion with a legal brief in support of the Summary Judgement motion.
- May 20, 2020, almost a month after the ruling against the Governor, and only two days after the Summary Judgement motion were filed, the Attorney General responds with a 15-page legislative history brief to Senator Harmon while ignoring a very important prong of the Rules of Statutory Construction, "Courts generally steer clear of any interpretation that would create an absurd result which the Legislature did not intend".
As was pointed out from the AG Ryan opinion:
"In construing a statute, all of its terms and provisions are to be read and considered as a whole to determine not only its intent and meaning but also the method of accomplishing the object to be attained. (Pascal v. Lyons (1958), 15 Ill. 2d 41, 45.) An attempt should be made to give meaning to the expressed intent of the legislature and to avoid a construction that would render any portion of the statute meaningless or void. People v. Tarlton (1982), 91 Ill. 2d 1, 5"
"Subsection 7(a) (1) clearly authorizes the Governor to exercise emergency powers for up to 30 days. A construction of its provisions to allow the Governor to extend the 30 day period would render the limitation clause meaningless."
An opinion which renders part of a statute as meaningless creates an absurd result which the legislature did not intend. It is clear, the Governor takes the position he can keep making proclamations of an emergency and that triggers a new 30-day clock. Such a position renders the limitation clause meaningless but then again, this is the same Governor who's attorney believes he can keep issuing proclamations of a disaster until everyone is vaccinated.
Just as the Governor has been judge-shopping by trying to remove cases from Clay County, it appears the administration is also shopping for any possible legal opinion that could give him cover.
We find it very troubling to see Attorney General Raoul issue his letter in light of what the courts have said on the matter. Finding nothing in his opinion letter addressing the court's interpretation and findings in the court of law, which was issued before Raoul's opinion should give everyone a great pause. From a public trust standpoint, such a failure to acknowledge what the courts have said should trouble everyone in the state.
Just as a statute must be read and considered as a whole, so shall the State's actions to determine their intent. While we can not prove what their real intent is with all of these puzzle pieces, we can confirm they have ignored our laws. In light of the AG ignoring a court's interpretation of the law in an opinion he is providing to the Senate, he should resign, along with the Governor. For those who think asking for the AG's resignation is harsh, let's not forget this is the same guy who appeared to have clearly violated our State ethics laws as outlined here and here.
I guess that old saying of "you get what you voted for" rings true in Illinois.