* The I-Team…
Blagojevich tells the I-Team that he will file a [federal] lawsuit against the state of Illinois, objecting to the way he was removed as governor and challenging the prohibition against his running for state elective office. He claims the methods used against him by the General Assembly violated his constitutional rights.
“I could legally run for President of the United States, but I can’t run for alderman of the 33rd Ward,” said Blagojevich in an exclusive interview with the I-Team and part of a special report on Sunday night.
Blagojevich says he has no actual interest in ether position — president or alderman — but that on Monday, says he will go to the Dirksen federal courthouse in Chicago with a lawsuit alleging the legislative actions that now prevent him from running for statewide office were unconstitutional.
Just weeks after Blagojevich was arrested by the FBI in 2008, and charged in an expansive corruption case, the Illinois House voted to impeach him followed by a senate conviction, thereby removing the state’s 40th governor from office.
Blagojevich says his new lawsuit will accuse the state of an unconstitutional impeachment proceeding, claiming that he was not allowed to call and question witnesses, or play all of the voluminous FBI undercover recordings made during the corruption investigation. […]
“I think he’s got a very hard argument to make. And the reason is this: impeachment is not like a criminal proceeding. A criminal proceeding clearly under the Constitution has certain constitutional protections,” said [ABC7’s legal analyst Gil Soffer, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago]. “But it is much less clear for an impeachment proceeding. An impeachment proceeding is more political than certainly criminal. It’s more political-at least as part political and legal-and so it’s not at all clear that he has the same right, the same due process protections as he would in a criminal proceeding.”
I can’t help but wonder who’s financing this.
* Anyway, Soffer is right. And Hannah Meisel digs up some judicial precedent…
Blagojevich’s assertion that being blocked from running for state office is unconstitutional is similar to a losing argument made in federal court by a man barred from running for a local school board a decade ago. The case ended up at the Seventh Circuit Appellate Court, which in 2014 ruled an Illinois election law banning people with certain convictions on their records from running for office does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.
“The right to run for or hold public office is not a fundamental right,” the court wrote in its opinion. “Thus, a ban on felons running for elective office is valid if it is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Illinois’s stated interest in barring felons from elective office is to ensure ‘public confidence in the honesty and integrity of those serving in state and local offices.’”
The court also ruled the law doesn’t violate the First Amendment.
The law prevents those convicted of so-called “infamous” crimes like murder, rape, sexual assault, burglary, arson and selling narcotics, but also includes non-violent crimes like perjury and bribery. Blagojevich’s first trial ended with him convicted on a charge of lying to the FBI, and the subsequent trial ended with the jury finding him guilty on 17 charges, including counts of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.
The Illinois Constitution allows the Senate to prohibit an impeached and removed official from ever running for state and local elective office.