Judge excoriates ex-Illinois Gov. Blagojevich’s federal lawsuit as publicity stunt that ‘ends with a whimper’

CHICAGO — As a general rule, it’s never good when a federal judge feels compelled to address your lawsuit with a quote from Dr. Seuss.

But that’s exactly what happened Thursday to disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose lawsuit challenging the state resolution prohibiting him from running for any state or local office in Illinois was excoriated by a judge as a publicity stunt and an “Issue-Spotting Wonderland.”

In dismissing Blagojevich’s 2021 lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger accused the former governor of using the federal courthouse as a megaphone in an ill-advised attempt to get back in the political game following the commutation of 14-year prison sentence by then-President Donald Trump.

He quoted from Dr. Seuss’ 1972 book “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!” which reads: “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!””

Noting that Blagojevich announced the lawsuit with a news conference outside the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, which at the time was virtually shut down due to the pandemic, Seeger wrote the former governor may have been “hoping for a warmer reception and a new lease on political life.”

“Blagojevich didn’t have a graceful exit from public life,” Seeger wrote in the 10-page opinion. “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.”

But the complaint Blagojevich filed, which sought a permanent injunction declaring the resolution passed by the Illinois General Assembly in the wake of his 2009 impeachment was unconstitutional, is “riddled with problems,” Seeger said.

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

Seeger wrote Blagojevich said there was no court precedent for the relief Blagojevich sought — and for good reason. “In its 205-year history, the Illinois General Assembly has impeached, convicted, and removed one public official: Blagojevich,” the judge said.

Seeger said that even if Illinois courts had given the green light in the past to judicial review “it would not mean that a federal court could get involved.”

“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.”

Seeger’s opinion ended by saying Blagojevich “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,” the judge 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.”

Blagojevich, 67, a former lawyer who acted as his own attorney in filing the suit, could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Through a spokesman, Blagojevich issued a statement saying the ruling came as “no surprise” but insisting that the law banning him from running for office in Illinois is unconstitutional.

“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,” the statement read.

A Chicago Democrat, Blagojevich was infamously arrested in December 2008 on an array of corruption charges, including the proposed sale of President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat and trying to shake down executives from a children’s hospital and the horse racing industry for campaign contributions in exchange for official acts in office.

During his impeachment hearing in 2009, Blagojevich refused to bring witnesses and only agreed to testify if he were not under oath. He was removed from office on a 59-0 vote of the entire Illinois Senate and was penalized with the inability to seek any nonfederal public office in Illinois on a separate 59-0 vote.

Blagojevich was convicted of 17 counts at trial in June 2011 and served about eight years of his 14-year sentence before the commutation from Trump in early 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortly after his release, Blagojevich was disbarred from practicing law by the Illinois Supreme Court.