Can Illinois police arrest truant Wisconsin legislators?
posted at 9:30 am on February 18, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
One mystery in The Case of the Missing Legislators has been resolved. The man driving the car in this clip produced by the Rockford, Illinois Tea Party is Wisconsin state senator Jim Holperin, in his third year in the state’s upper chamber:
Another mystery has yet to be solved, which is whether the police in Illinois could detain the Pols On The Lam even if law enforcement caught up with them. According to a legal analysis by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the answer appears to be no:
The Wisconsin legislators on the lam cannot be touched by out-of-state police, according to veteran Wisconsin lawyers.
The attorneys agree that authority of Capitol Police and other local law enforcement ends at Beloit, meaning Illinois officers couldn’t help their Wisconsin brethren retrieve those Democrats who escaped if they wanted.
“Cops in other places can’t just pick people up and haul them across state lines,” said Rodney Cubbie, a former federal and Milwaukee County prosecutor. “You have to have some sort of court order or warrant.”
Actually, no one is sure that Wisconsin police would have the power to arrest and transport reluctant legislators back to the capital. While on the capital grounds, the law seems to be clear that police can compel legislators to return to the chamber, but outside of the capital, it gets rather murky. One criminal defense attorney called the situation “unprecedented.”
In essence, this is a political issue, not a criminal issue. Unless a federal judge issues a warrant for these Bouncing Badgers, the state of Illinois would be highly unlikely to arrest them, let alone force them back across the state line. Even if police did arrest the legislators, defendants have a right to contest extradition — although it would be amusing to see Wisconsin state legislators arguing that they need asylum in Illinois.
Being a political issue, it’s incumbent on their constituents to demand their return, or to eventually move to vacate their seats if they do not. I’d assume that people in these state senate districts are already perusing the recall statutes, and might put them to use if their elected representatives can’t find the testicular fortitude to actually represent them in Madison.