From NBC's Pete Williams and Mark Murray
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan today asked the state Supreme Court to temporarily remove embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich from the governor's office and to put the lieutenant governor in charge for now.
Madigan acted under a section of the state constitution that gives the Illinois Supreme Court the power to declare a governor unfit to serve. She urged the court to take the case and act quickly, "in light of these extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances."
The Illinois constitution gives the court exclusive power to consider "the ability of the governor to serve or resume office." This provision has never been invoked before, so the attorney general's effort is without precedent.
Recognizing that this is a legal long shot, Madigan said she's trying to seek "a remedy as narrow as possible." That's why her filings with the court today ask that Blagojevich be declared temporarily unfit to serve. She claims he is unable to carry out his duties, including performing the work necessary for the state to get short-term loans. "State government is paralyzed," she said.
Madigan said she supports an effort by the legislature to impeach Blagojevich. But her advisers say the authority of the current legislature evaporates when the year ends. Any impeachment effort that's launched now would have to start all over again in the new year.
Rules of the court give it complete discretion, so it could refuse to take up the case. If it does agree to hear it, the court would likely ask for legal briefs from the governor before acting. How long would the process take? No one knows, because it's never been tried before.