Rod Blagojevich is looking for a job now that he’s out of federal prison thanks to a commutation from President Donald Trump, but the former governor shouldn’t be able to get one in an Illinois courtroom, state regulators say.
And while the disgraced ex-governor declared upon his release last week that he wants to fix the “broken” criminal justice system, he apparently isn’t planning to do so as a lawyer.
Blagojevich didn’t bother to show up to his hearing Tuesday before the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, which has had his law license suspended on an interim basis since 2011 in the middle of his blockbuster corruption trial.
Now that agency is aiming to have Blagojevich disbarred for good due to his “moral turpitude” and his “calculated scheme to deprive the people of Illinois of their rights to honest services,” litigation counsel Christopher Heredia told a three-person panel from the commission.
Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky maintained his newly freed client’s innocence, but acknowledged the ex-governor’s conviction alone is sufficient for the state Supreme Court to pull his license, and said Blagojevich “does not wish to engage in a contested hearing” to hold onto it.
Heredia ran through the litany of crimes that landed Blagojevich a 14-year federal prison sentence — namely, auctioning Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat, shaking down a children’s hospital CEO and racetrack owner for campaign contributions, and lying to FBI agents investigating the case.
On top of that, Blagojevich’s “lack of remorse” and “dismissive attitude” toward the disciplinary process were reason enough to yank his license, Heredia said. The agency moved to disbar Blagojevich last summer and didn’t receive a formal response.
“He doesn’t care. He had plenty to say at the time [of the trial], and now his silence is deafening,” Heredia said.
Sorosky said “the facts are not in dispute,” but dismissed them as “meager forms of corruption” that never put money in Blagojevich’s pocket.
“People are always asking the governor for something, and that’s perfectly legal,” Sorosky said. “The sin that he committed was people on his behalf asked for campaign contributions in a time that was too close to these transactions.”
The panel is expected to take anywhere from one to six months to make a recommendation on Blagojevich’s case to the state Supreme Court, which has the final say on whether he’ll be disbarred.
Despite Trump’s clemency, Blagojevich is still subject to two years of supervised release included in his sentence. That means he needs to find a job within two months, or perform 20 hours of community service per week until he gets one.
Asked if the ex-governor would like to practice law again — something he hasn’t done in nearly three decades — Sorosky said only: “Sure.”
Blagojevich graduated from Pepperdine University and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1984. He worked as an assistant Cook County state’s attorney until entering politics and winning a statehouse seat in 1992.
What else might Blagojevich have in mind for future prospects?
“One never knows,” Sorosky said.