Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blago Is Right to Appoint Burris to Senate Seat

I think Rod Blagojevich was right to appoint Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's US Senate seat from Illinois.

As I wrote 10 days ago, Blagojevich has not been found guilty of anything. He has not even been indicted by a grand jury. He has not been impeached or found guilty in a subsequent trial.

He has been publicly accused by a Federal prosecutor. I think it is crucial to the rule of law in our society that we don't allow accusations to derail or short circuit our legal processes. The law in Illinois calls for the governor to make this appointment. To not make the appointment would be allowing a Federal prosecutor to call the shots - to decide, in effect, who cannot be Senator. Is this the kind of power we want prosecutors to have?

Democrats in the US Senate are saying that Burris might not be seated. They should bear in mind that when the Congress tried unseat Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in the 1960s, the Supreme Court found that the House had acted unconstitutionally, and Powell was reseated. And the Powell case involved charges against him - that he had misappropriated funds. In contrast, no one has brought any charges against Burris.

To refuse to seat a Senator duly appointed by a governor, because the governor has been accused - not indicted or found guilty - of a crime, would be a dangerous precedent indeed.
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