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Judge rips Blagojevich’s ‘publicity stunt’ bid to get court’s approval to run for office again

Dr. Seuss is quoted in a section from U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger’s 10-page opinion dismissing ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawsuit to regain the ability to hold state or local office in Illinois.
Capitol News Illinois Illustration by Andrew Adams
Dr. Seuss is quoted in a section from U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger’s 10-page opinion dismissing ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawsuit to regain the ability to hold state or local office in Illinois.

A federal judge this week channeled one of the most famous children’s authors of the last century in telling off ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his efforts to regain the right to run for office after his 2009 impeachment.

“The time has come. The time is now. Just Go. Go. GO! I don’t care how,” U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger wrote, quoting Dr. Seuss’ 1972 book “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!”

In his 10-page opinion, Seeger dismissed Blagojevich’s 2021 lawsuit seeking relief from the Illinois Senate’s post-impeachment vote to bar him from ever again holding state or local office.

In dismissing the case, Seeger noted the former governor had chosen the wrong venue to file his case, writing that the federal court – where Blagojevich’s first criminal case ended in a mistrial but he was ultimately convicted on 17 corruption charges in 2011 – had no jurisdiction over state legislatures.

But more than that, Seeger said, Blagojevich didn’t adequately make the case that any court has the right to review impeachment proceedings in Illinois, noting there isn’t any legal precedent because the former governor is an anomaly.

“In its 205-year history, the Illinois General Assembly has impeached, convicted, and removed one public official: Blagojevich,” Seeger wrote.

The judge’s decision, he said, came down to the centuries-old doctrine of separation of powers.

“The bottom line is that the judiciary has no power to unimpeach, unconvict, and unremove a public official,” Seeger wrote. “The legislature taketh away, and the judiciary cannot giveth back.”

In a statement Thursday, the ex-governor's spokesperson said Seeger’s ruling was not a surprise.

“The law banning Rod Blagojevich from running for office in Illinois is unconstitutional,” Mark Vargas said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The people should be able to decide who they want or don't want to represent them — not federal judges or establishment politicians who are afraid of governors who fight for the people.”

Blagojevich was removed from office in January 2009, the month after his infamous early morning arrest by federal agents at his home. He was indicted later that spring on two dozen charges ranging from shaking down a children’s hospital for campaign donations to trying to sell then-President-Elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, for which the governor held appointment power.

After two separate criminal trials in 2010 and 2011, Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, but only served eight when then-President Donald Trump commuted his sentence in February 2020.

In the summer of 2021, Blagojevich summoned TV cameras to the Dirksen Federal Courthouse to announce his lawsuit to regain the right to run for office, though at the time he said he didn’t “have any particular plans” to do so and “the very thought of doing all that again makes me groan.”

Seeger took aim at that waffling and his taking “the unusual step of calling a press conference to let the world know that he was filing a complaint.” The judge said “the book is closed” on Blagojevich’s public life, and that “the case never should have been filed.”

“The case started with a megaphone, but it ends with a whimper,” Seeger wrote. “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.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Hannah covers state government and politics for Capitol News Illinois. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at WILL-AM/FM, Law360, Capitol Fax and The Daily Line before returning to NPR Illinois in 2020 and moving to CNI in 2023.