Judge orders Elk Grove term limits question be placed on ballot
A Cook County judge Monday ordered Elk Grove Village's clerk to certify a local term limits question, ensuring it will appear on the March 17 ballot.
But whether it will actually count -- potentially putting an end to the long tenure of Mayor Craig Johnson and other village board members -- depends on the forthcoming appeals process, as two separate objections to the referendum could go all the way to the state Supreme Court.
In a decision Monday afternoon at the Daley Center in Chicago, Judge Maureen Hannon incorporated her previous Jan. 15 ruling in the first objection case, finding a new state law barring retroactive municipal term limits unconstitutional.
She also determined the proposed question brought by Elk Grove resident Tim Burns -- which would ask voters whether the mayor and trustees should be able to serve no more than two consecutive 4-year terms -- isn't vague or ambiguous.
That had been the primary argument of the attorney for the Committee To Oppose The Retroactive Term Limits Referendum, which is backed by the longtime mayor.
"The language of the referendum question does stand on its own terms and offers the voters a coherent scheme for altering the election of their officials," Hannon said. "It should be up to the voters in Elk Grove to determine whether they want term limits to apply for the current administration and onward."
John Fogarty, attorney for Johnson's committee, said he plans to appeal.
Pericles Abbasi, attorney in the first objection case brought by Elk Grove resident Benjamin Lee, filed an appeal in that case Friday -- timing that was questioned in court Monday by Michael Kasper, the powerful election law attorney, lobbyist and longtime lawyer for House Speaker Michael Madigan. Kasper appeared in court last Wednesday and again Monday on behalf of Village Clerk Lorrie Murphy, who initially refused to certify the ballot question after the judge's decision in the first case.
"There's something going on here," Kasper said. "Perhaps Mr. Lee and Mr. Burns have come to some sort of political agreement."
Burt Odelson, a notable election law attorney in his own right who represents Burns, objected to Kasper's assertion.
"Just because he's Mike Kasper doesn't mean he can come up here and say anything he wants," Odelson told the judge.
Odelson and Kasper famously squared off in 2010 when the latter successfully defended a challenge to Rahm Emanuel's Chicago residency before he became mayor.
The Elk Grove case took on added political intrigue, with Kasper and Fogarty arguing on the same side against Odelson. Kasper is general counsel for the state Democratic Party, while Fogarty holds the same role for the Republicans.