Madigan Sides with Gorecki Attorney General Says Prosecutor Can Return after Suspension
Waldron, Patrick, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Patrick Waldron Daily Herald Staff Writer
In groundbreaking and potentially far-reaching opinion, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan declared Friday that Kane County State's Attorney Meg Gorecki cannot be stripped of her office as a result of the four-month suspension of her law license.
The 15-page opinion strongly states that such a suspension does not create a vacancy in a state's attorney's office but does produce the need for another attorney to temporarily fill the role in Gorecki's absence.
It widely opens the door to Gorecki returning after her suspension, something that has been clouded in legal uncertainty since the Illinois Supreme Court ruled last year to suspend her license as punishment for ethics violations. Gorecki asked Madigan for the opinion to provide legal basis for that eventuality.
As important, the ruling indicates that the future of the Kane County office after Feb. 1 - the first day of Gorecki's suspension - rests with the courts and not the county board's appointment power.
"Although this disciplinary suspension will not cause a vacancy in the office of state's attorney for the remainder of her term," Madigan writes in the opinion, "it will prevent her assistant state's attorneys from exercising the powers that they derive from her during the four-month suspension.
"To avoid the problems presented by this situation, the circuit court may appoint one or more special state's attorneys to perform the duties of state's attorney during the period of her suspension," the opinion said.
The opinion came on the same day county board Chairman Mike McCoy set a meeting for Feb. 2 to ask the county board to declare the state's attorney's office vacant and appoint a successor to fill out Gorecki's term, which expires Nov. 30.
McCoy, relying on the work of special assistant state's attorney Pat Kinnally, was moving forward on the premise that the license suspension did create a vacancy.
"We have a special assistant ... to review this issue and he has given his own opinion," McCoy said late Friday. "(Madigan's) opinion is in conflict with that.
"He will review this, and he will see if it changes the opinion he has issued to us, and we will go from there," McCoy added.
On a basic level, however, having conflicting opinions in hand creates the possibility of a legal showdown before the county board over Gorecki's future, McCoy said.
"It's just an opinion," McCoy said. "We have to see if it changes our special assistant's opinion. They could argue it before the board."
Madigan spokeswoman Melissa Merz admits it is an opinion, but a very strong one.
Much of Madigan's conclusions deal with areas involving little or no legal precedent. …