SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - In an unprecedented move, the Illinois attorney general asked the state's highest court Friday to strip scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich of his powers.
Lisa Madigan took the action as pressure on the governor intensified to step down and lawmakers considered impeachment. And the fallout over the scandal continued Friday as the governor's chief of staff resigned; John Harris was arrested along with the governor on Tuesday.
Madigan said that she took the action with the Supreme Court because she thinks that this is a faster way to strip Blagojevich of his power than through impeachment, which could take several weeks.
'I recognize that this is an extraordinary request, but these are extraordinary circumstances,' Madigan said at a news conference in Chicago.
Illinois Supreme Court spokesman Joseph Tybor would not comment on when the court might act on Madigan's motion, saying only that it 'will be properly considered.' The justices also have the discretion to deny the attorney general's request.
The move came as the governor prayed with several ministers in his home before heading to his office, telling them he is innocent and will be vindicated 'when you hear each chapter completely written,' according to one of the pastors.
The attorney general asked the court for a temporary restraining order or an injunction that prevents Blagojevich from serving as governor. The filing says he is 'unable to serve as governor due to disability and should not rightfully continue to hold that office.'
'The pervasive nature and severity of these pending charges disable Mr. Blagojevich from making effective decisions on critical, time-sensitive issues,' the filing said.
The filing asks that the lieutenant governor assume Blagojevich's powers.
It is the first time in Illinois history that such an action was taken. The attorney general is applying a rule that was intended to cover cases where a governor is incapacitated for health reasons. Her motion indicates that his inability to serve because of the scandal is akin to a debilitating health issue.
The motion essentially declares that Blagojevich's legal problems amount to a disability that would not be resolved until he is either cleared of the charges or leaves office.
'Mr. Blagojevich is unable to distinguish between his financial interests and his official duties and between illegal acts and legal conduct, rendering him incapable of legitimately exercising his ability as governor,' Madigan says in the motion.
Prior to Blagojevich's arrest, Madigan had already been considering a run for governor.
'His ability to provide effective leadership has been eliminated and the state government is paralyzed.'