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Today’s must-read: Federal judge administers brutal beat-down of Blagojevich (Updated)

Thursday, Mar 21, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* United States District Judge Steven C. Seeger is now officially my hero

More than a decade ago, Governor Rod Blagojevich left the Dirksen Federal Building in disgrace. He was charged, tried, and convicted of more than ten counts of corruption. He received a sentence of 14 years, and the Seventh Circuit largely affirmed. “The evidence, much of it from Blagojevich’s own mouth, is overwhelming.” See United States v. Blagojevich, 794 F.3d 729, 734 (7th Cir. 2015).

While the charges were pending, the Illinois General Assembly took decisive action to remove him from public office. Blagojevich inspired bipartisanship. The Illinois House of Representatives impeached him by a vote of 117-1, and the Illinois Senate convicted and removed him from office by a vote of 59-0.

At that point, Blagojevich’s career came to a close. The music stopped, the curtain fell, and he exited stage left.

He’s back.

Blagojevich didn’t have a graceful exit from public life. It was disgraceful. And by the look of things, it wasn’t even an exit. Because Blagojevich wants back in the game, and back on center stage, microphone in hand.

Blagojevich served almost eight years in prison, before receiving a presidential commutation. After regaining his freedom, Blagojevich wants to regain the ability to represent the good people of Illinois. So he came back to the Dirksen Federal Building, hoping for a warmer reception and a new lease on political life.

Blagojevich unveiled a two-count pro se complaint under section 1983 and neighboring provisions, challenging the treatment that he received in the Illinois legislature. The first count seeks an injunction to “enjoin the State of Illinois and all of its component parts from enforcing the State Senate’s disqualifying provision which denies Plaintiff his right to run for office in Illinois in violation of the Sixth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” See Cplt., at 9 (Dckt. No. 1). The second count seeks a “declaratory judgement [sic] rendering the State Senate’s disqualifying provision as null and void because it violates the First Amendment rights of the voters of Illinois.” Id.

He adds that the “people’s right to vote is a fundamental right.” Id. And by that, Blagojevich apparently means the fundamental right to vote for him.

The complaint is riddled with problems. If the problems are fish in a barrel, the complaint contains an entire school of tuna. It is a target-rich environment. The complaint is an Issue-Spotting Wonderland.


* There’s far too much to excerpt, but here’s the end

All of these problems, and perhaps more, stand in the way of his claim. The simple reality is that federal courts have no role to play when it comes to a state impeachment. The state legislature decided to remove Blagojevich from public life, and it is not the place of a federal court to bring him back.

The case began with great fanfare. Surrounded by microphones and cameras, with a gaggle of press in tow, Blagojevich announced to the world that he might want a sequel in public life.

The book is closed. The last page already turned, and the final chapter of his public life is over. The case never should have been filed. Read generally Dr. Seuss, Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! (1972) (“The time has come. The time has come. The time is now. Just Go. Go. GO! I don’t care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!”).

The case started with a megaphone, but it ends with a whimper. Sometimes cases in the federal courthouse attract publicity. But the courthouse is no place for a publicity stunt.

He wants back. But he’s already gone. Case dismissed.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing. It’s as close to perfection as a human being can achieve.

…Adding… Idiocy…

If federal judges shouldn’t decide this, then why file a federal lawsuit?

There should be sanctions here.


Defense, prosecutors debate “goodwill”

Thursday, May 19, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Steve Daniels on the legal arguments over jury instructions for the ComEd defendants

“The instructions should state, as defendants have argued, that a violation . . . requires a quid pro quo,” according to the [defense] filing. “In other words, a person acts corruptly in violation of (the law) when he or she exchanges a thing of value for an official act. The Supreme Court has held that ‘for bribery there must be a quid pro quo—a specific intent to give or receive something of value in exchange for an official act.’ ”

So, in the instructions they propose Leinenweber give, [defendants] suggest he make clear, “It is not a crime to give something to a public official to build a reservoir of goodwill that might ultimately affect one or more of a multitude of unspecified acts, now and in the future.”

The proposed jury instructions from U.S. Attorney John Lausch, also filed May 16, suggest instead this construct: “A person acts corruptly when that person acts with the intent that something of value is given or offered to reward or influence an agent of state government in connection with the agent’s official duties.”

Defense attorneys want more specificity than that.

So, if a legislator wins a “Best Friend of the Widget Industry” award every year and receives regular campaign contributions from the widget group and its members and then sponsors a new widget industry bill, are the industry lobbyists and the legislator who happens to represent lots of widget workers acting corruptly or is the legislator merely a beneficiary of goodwill and attempting to do something perceived by the legislator and the industry as a positive for the state?

And, yes, I get that ComEd went way beyond the above hypothetical, but the debate the defense wants to have is whether what they did was just an extreme, far more organized and hugely effective extension of the smaller-scale things that happen every day in the political world. Ultimately (after a retrial), Rod Blagojevich’s argument that the feds were criminalizing politics did not work. These defendants, however, appear to have better lawyers and will likely be far more well-behaved than Rod was.


* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
* McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally abruptly aborts reelection bid without explanation
* Question of the day
* It’s just a bill
* Protect Illinois Hospitality – Vote No On House Bill 5345
* You gotta be kidding me
* Showcasing The Retailers Who Make Illinois Work
* Moody’s revises Illinois outlook from stable to positive (Updated)
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* Live coverage
* *** UPDATED x1 - Equality Illinois 'alarmed' over possible Harris appointment *** Personal PAC warns Democratic committeepersons about Sen. Napoleon Harris
* Yesterday's stories

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