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Appeals Court Deliberating Emanuel Residency Case

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Rahm Emanuel

Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel discusses his plan to fight crime. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 01/19/11 2:45 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – The Illinois Appellate Court is deliberating about whether Rahm Emanuel meets the residency requirements to run for mayor of Chicago after hearing arguments from both sides on Wednesday.

A panel of three justices began deliberating Wednesday afternoon after it heard arguments at the Michael E. Bilandic Building at 160 N. LaSalle St.

At a news conference, a relaxed-looking Emanuel wouldn’t say if he thought he’d prevail. He’d only say he’s leaving any worrying about a ruling to others.

The hearing started at 11 a.m. and a lawyer for two voters who say the former White House chief of staff doesn’t qualify to be on the ballot has vowed to take the case to the Illinois Supreme Court, if necessary.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Regine Schlesinger reports

The voters contend Emanuel should be disqualified, citing a one-year residency requirement. The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and a circuit court judge have said Emanuel can be on the Feb. 22 ballot.

And while Emanuel got some high-power support Tuesday at a rally at the Chicago Cultural Center with former President Bill Clinton, he is not blinking an eye as he defends his case.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, attorney Burton Odelson has been leading efforts to get Emanuel kicked off the ballot, arguing the former White House chief of staff does not meet residency requirements to run for mayor because he moved to Washington, D.C., two years ago to work for President Barack Obama.

“Though he may not have, in his mind, abandoned his residence, he did. Legally he did. He signed a lease, people are living there, and he’s not here,” Odelson said. “It’s really that simple. I hate to make it that simple, but it is that simple.”

But a hearing officer, the full Chicago Board of Elections, and a Cook County Circuit Court judge have all already ruled that Emanuel is eligible to run for mayor.

Illinois state law says a candidate for mayor is required to have lived in the municipality where he is running for at least one year prior to the election. But exceptions are made for national service. Odelson argued that “national service” would only apply to military service, not serving as chief of staff to President Barack Obama as Emanuel did.

But Emanuel’s legal team has argued that he always intended to return to Chicago, noting that he maintained ownership of his Ravenswood home.

In ruling in favor of Emanuel earlier this month, Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Mark Ballard agreed that Emanuel kept his residency in Chicago, ruling that “it didn’t matter” that he went to D.C. to work for Obama, handing Emanuel his third straight victory in the residency fight.

“An individual’s residency is not abandoned, even though that individual may not have a right to sleep within the jurisdiction,” Ballard ruled.

Regardless of the outcome of the case before the Appellate Court, attorneys are expected to take it to the Illinois Supreme Court afterward.

The decision will have to happen soon, so the ballots can be printed correctly, with or without Emanuel’s name.

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