Rauner: Illinois Supreme Court part of a 'corrupt system'
Gov. Bruce Rauner said Tuesday the Illinois Supreme Court is part of a "corrupt system" because justices can get campaign donations from attorneys who argue before the court.
The state's high court is weighing a 2013 law that cuts retirement benefits for thousands of teachers, state workers and retirees.
Rauner told the Daily Herald editorial board he's working toward a different pension plan that seeks to break what he calls a "corrupt bargain" between union leaders and politicians who can get campaign money from them.
"I don't trust the Supreme Court to be rational in their decisions," Rauner said. "I think they're activist judges who want to be legislators."
Asked if the state Supreme Court is part of the same "corrupt" system, Rauner replied: "Yes, correct. Yes. Yes. We have a system where we elect our judges, and the trial lawyers who argue cases in front of those judges give campaign cash to those judges. It's a corrupt system."
A spokesman for the Illinois Supreme Court declined to comment.
Rauner said he'd favor merit selection of judges rather than elections. High court justices are elected to a first term then face recall elections every 10 years.
"You tell me if you look at who gives them the money and you decide whether there's a conflict of interest going on in the courts," Rauner said. "You tell me. Do you think there's not?"
Rauner's comments could be controversial. In 2010, President Barack Obama criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for its decision in the Citizens United campaign contributions decision, sparking controversy.
Last month, Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita Garman invited Rauner and others to a rare evening session of the court so that lawmakers and others could see oral arguments first hand. The governor attended.
Rauner, a Winnetka Republican, is on a tour of Illinois to promote his agenda ahead of the final several weeks of the legislative session in Springfield.
On pensions, he's proposed having teachers' and state workers' future benefits go into 401(k)-style plans, leaving retirees' and workers' accrued benefits alone. Rauner says he'd like to amend the state Constitution to ensure his plan wouldn't be tossed by the courts.