• Justice Thomas

If our jurists weren’t so darned fancy with their language, we might more often notice them calling each other knaves and liars.

Thursday, the justices of the Illinois Supreme Court weren’t so fancy. They unanimously ruled that Rahm Emanuel can stay on the ballot as a candidate for mayor of Chicago. Here’s their ruling. Read it.

They got very unpleasant.

The majority, justices Thomas, Thomas Kilbride, Rita Garman, Lloyd Karmeier, and Mary Jane Theis, either found Monday’s appellate ruling that, by a two-to-one margin, briefly tossed Emanuel off the ballot genuinely contemptible, or they felt scorn would bulwark their argument. Justice Bob Thomas, a former Bears placekicker, wrote the ruling as if channeling Mike Ditka.

Thomas asserted that residency law in Illinois was settled from 1867 through January 24 of this year, that is, until the appellate court “issued its decision and announced that it was no longer bound by any of the law cited above….but was instead free to craft its own original standard.” Much more sarcasm and ridicule ensued. Wrote Thomas, blowing off the appellate court, “Its reasons for departing from over 100 years of settled residency law are hardly compelling and deserve only brief attention.”

Justices Anne Burke and Charles Freeman concurred in the majority’s conclusion that Emanuel should be restored to the ballot. But they not only disagreed with the majority’s reasoning but denounced it. “The tone taken by the majority today is unfortunate,” they declared, because residency law in Illinois is anything but clear. The majority said otherwise, but “this is simply not true.” In the view of the dissenting justices, the majority dealt with inconvenient precedents by ignoring them. And as for the tone it took — shameful. “Spirited debate plays an essential role in legal discourse,” they wrote. “But the majority opinion here and the appellate dissent cross the line. Inflammatory accusations serve only to damage the integrity of the judiciary and lessen the trust which the public places in judicial opinions.”

The last time Thomas was hammered that hard in print, it was by a newspaper columnist in Kane County. Thomas sued him.