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Quoting Dr. Seuss, ‘Just go, Go, GO!’ federal judge dismisses Blagojevich political comeback suit

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Rod Blagojevich, the ex-governor and ex-con who often dusted off ancient and sometimes puzzling quotations to emphasize his positions, found himself at the other end Thursday when a federal judge dismissed his lawsuit attempting to return to public life by quoting Dr. Seuss: “Just go.”

The Chicago Democrat, impeached and removed from office by the General Assembly in 2009, then sentenced to federal prison for political crimes, filed suit in federal court to reverse a ban accompanying his impeachment that prohibits his return to public office.

On Thursday, in a colorful, 10-page smackdown dismissing the action from Chicago, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Seeger debunked the former governor’s claims issue by issue, then relied on Dr. Seuss’ 1972 book, “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!” to suggest what Blagojevich should do:

“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!”

Mark Vargas, a Blagojevich spokesperson, said the ruling was no surprise.

“The people should be able to decide who they want or don’t want to represent them,” Vargas wrote on X, formerly Twitter, “not federal judges or establishment politicians who are afraid of governors who fight for the people.”

He did not say whether Blagojevich, 67, would take further action.

As Illinois governor from 2003 to 2009, Blagojevich was fond of quoting Greek philosophers, Roman statesmen and the Bible (particularly John 8:32: “The truth will set you free.”)

He was impeached and removed from office in 2009, then convicted of 17 counts of corruption in 2011, including attempting to sell or trade for political gain the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama upon his election as president. He served eight years behind bars of a 14-year sentence before his sentence was commuted by then-President Donald Trump in 2020. The Illinois Supreme Court also revoked his law license.

Blagojevich, who routinely joked while governor that he had received a “C” in constitutional law at Pepperdine University Law School, filed the lawsuit in 2021, representing himself. Accompanied by a gaggle of news reporters, cameras and microphones outside the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago, the always impeccably coifed Blagojevich declared, “I’m back.”

The federal civil rights complaint sought to reverse the state Senate’s impeachment ban on his holding office again, arguing the ban violates the Constitution’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments and the First Amendment’s protection of the people’s fundamental right to vote. “And by that,” Seeger explained, “Blagojevich apparently means the fundamental right to vote for him.”

“The complaint is riddled with problems,” Seeger began. “If the problems were 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.”

First off, Seeger said that civil rights complaints must be filed against a person, which neither the state of Illinois nor its General Assembly is.

Next, Seeger discussed at length why a federal court cannot intervene in a legislative impeachment proceeding because of the Constitution’s separation-of-powers provision. The judge then pointed out that even if the impeachment ban was reversed, Illinois state law still prevents a convicted felon from holding “an office of honor, trust or profit.”

The Sixth Amendment, Seeger wrote, applies to criminal trials, not civil trials: impeachment “took away his job, not his liberty,” he said.

Further, Blagojevich can’t sue to protect the rights of voters. They need to speak for themselves, Seeger said, and “no voter is here hoping to cast a vote for Blagojevich.”

Finally, the judge said, Blagojevich might not even have a reason to proceed because when he filed the lawsuit, he said he might want to run again, but hadn’t decided. Seeger noted that a legal claim is not “ripe” if it depends on “contingent future events that may not occur.”

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

John O’connor, The Associated Press


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