What to do about filling the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-Elect Barack Obama?
It’s a tough question. Blago’s not going away on his own. To have the State Supreme Court toss out an elected governor would be uncomfortable, to say the least. Impeachment will take time so — no matter how warranted — it’s not desirable to leave the Senate seat vacant for that long. New legislation for a special election — and then the election itself — would also take time, and cost Illinois taxpayers tons of money at a time when they don’t need the extra expense.
But must the Senate seat remain tied to Blago’s political and legal destiny? I don’t think so. Nobody’s going to pay him a dime, now, for his nomination; so it wouldn’t cost him anything to give up the nomination, while remaining in his office. In fact, if the nomination were removed from the equation, that would relieve a lot of the pressure and the urgency for getting him removed.
Here’s how it could work: Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn could announce that (in consultation with whomever) he has chosen an impeccable nominee for the Senate seat, and the chorus could go up from around the state for Blagojevich to give his formal nomination to that person — with demands for his immediate resignation becoming at least a little bit less urgent.
Hon. Ann Claire Williams
And what kind of person could be nominated? Here’s my own pick: The Honorable Ann Claire Williams, United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (in Chicago, where she’s been since 1975).
A sketch of her life and career is featured on a web page for the 2008 meeting of the American Bar Association, in connection with her receiving the Margaret Brent Award [PDF].
I’m suggesting Judge Williams partly as an example of the kind of quality person who could be considered who is legitimately from Illinois, and qualified for the office, but without a history of entanglement in Illinois state politics. Surely, there are others.
In political terms, though, Judge Williams could be distinctively attractive as a non-partisan nominee for the position. There might be resistance to a Democratic appointee at a time when it’s not clear that Democrats could hold the seat in a special election; but Williams was appointed to the District Court by Ronald Reagan, and then to the Court of Appeals by Bill Clinton, and Wikipedia cites this statement on her political views:
In an article in the Chicago Tribune on December 11, 1999, Williams declined to say whether she is a Republican or a Democrat, instead calling herself politically independent. “I’ve written on thousands of cases across the board, and I think it would be hard to type me,” she said. “I don’t think there is a type. I am not in Congress. We don’t legislate in the courts.”
Here are the biographic details from the Federal Judicial Center:
Williams, Ann Claire
Born 1949 in Detroit, MI
Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U. S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
Nominated by Ronald Reagan on March 13, 1985, to a new seat created by 98 Stat. 333; Confirmed by the Senate on April 3, 1985, and received commission on April 4, 1985. Service terminated on November 17, 1999, due to appointment to another judicial position.Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Nominated by William J. Clinton on August 5, 1999, to a seat vacated by Walter J. Cummings, Jr.; Confirmed by the Senate on November 10, 1999, and received commission on November 15, 1999.
Wayne State University, B.S., 1970University of Michigan, M.A., 1972Notre Dame Law School, J.D., 1975
Law clerk, Hon. Robert A. Sprecher, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, 1975-76
Assistant U.S. Attorney, Chicago, Illinois, 1976-1985
Deputy chief, Criminal Receiving and Appellate Division, 1980-1983
Chief, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, Northern Central Region,1983-1985
Adjunct professor and lecturer, Northwestern University Law School, 1979-present
Adjunct professor and lecturer, John Marshall Law School, 1979-present
Race or Ethnicity: African American