The Universe of Discourse


Sun, 28 Apr 2024

Rod R. Blagojevich will you please go now?

I'm strangely fascinated and often amused by crooked politicians, and Rod Blagojevich was one of the most amusing.

In 2007 Barack Obama, then a senator of Illinois, resigned his office to run for United States President. Under Illinois law, the governor of Illinois was responsible for appointing Obama's replacement until the next election was held. The governor at the time was Rod Blagojevich, and Blagojevich had a fine idea: he would sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder. Yes, really.

Zina Saunders did this wonderful painting of Blago and has kindly given me permission to share it with you.

Rod
Blagojevich is depicted as a user-car salesman in the cheaply-produced
television advertisement.  He is wearing a green sport jacket with
wide lapels, white trousers, a shirt with a deep neckline, and a gold
neck medallion.  He stands gleefully in front of a large banner that proclaims
“SALE”, and is pointing both index fingers at the viewer. Behind him
is an armchair with the seal of the United States Senate on the
upholstery.

When the governor's innovation came to light, the Illinois state legislature ungratefully but nearly unanimously impeached him (the vote was 117–1) and removed him from office (59–0). He was later charged criminally, convicted, and sentenced to 168 months in federal prison for this and other schemes. He served about 8 years before Donald Trump, no doubt admiring the initiative of a fellow entrepreneur, commuted his sentence.

Blagojevich was in the news again recently. When the legislature gave him the boot they also permanently disqualified him from holding any state office. But Blagojevich felt that the people of Illinois had been deprived for too long of his wise counsel. He filed suit in Federal District Court, seeking not only vindication of his own civil rights, but for the sake of the good citizens of Illinois:

Preventing the Plaintiff from running for state or local public office outweighs any harm that could be caused by denying to the voters their right to vote for or against him in a free election.

Allowing voters decide who to vote for or not to vote for is not adverse to the public interest. It is in the public interest.

The Plaintiff is seeking a declaratory judgement rendering the State Senate's disqualifying provision as null and void because it violates the First Amendment rights of the voters of Illinois.

This kind of thing is why I can't help but be amused by crooked politicians. They're so joyful and so shameless, like innocent little children playing in a garden.

Blagojevich's lawsuit was never going to go anywhere, for so many reasons. Just the first three that come to mind:

  1. Federal courts don't have a say over Illinois' state affairs. They deal in federal law, not in matters of who is or isn't qualified to hold state office in Illinois.

  2. Blagojevich complained that his impeachment violated his Sixth Amendment right to Due Process. But the Sixth Amendment applies to criminal prosecutions and impeachments aren't criminal prosecutions.

  3. You can't sue to enforce someone else's civil rights. They have to bring the suit themselves. Suing on behalf of the people of a state is not a thing.

Well anyway, the judge, Steven  C. Seeger, was even less impressed than I was. Federal judges do not normally write “you are a stupid asshole, shut the fuck up,” in their opinions, and Judge Seeger did not either. But he did write:

He’s back.

and

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

and

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.

and

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

and

The impeachment and removal by the Illinois General Assembly is not the only barrier keeping Blagojevich off the ballot. Under Illinois law, a convicted felon cannot hold public office.

Federal judges don't get to write “sit down and shut up”. But Judge Seeger came as close as I have ever seen when he quoted from Marvin K. Mooney Will you Please Go Now!:

“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!”

Cover of 'Marvin
K. Mooney Wil YOu Please Go Now', (1972) by Dr. Seuss.  Marvin
K. Money is a little bipedal dog-like creature in a purple one-piece
jumpsuit.  He has a calm expression on his face, expressing his
indifferent to the cover's request that he Please Go Now.

Addendum 20240508

I just noticed that the judge, Steven C. Seeger, has appeared here before, also for having said something that maybe federal judges shouldn't say.


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