It was last December 13 that lawyers for Rod Blagojevich went to Federal Court to argue for his appeal.
Eight months later they are still waiting for an answer.
Save for some back and forth regarding filings, all that is known is that the three judges have taken the case under advisement. The only clues about what they may be thinking, came from the very pointed questions they fired during what were at times, testy arguments.
Other than that --- nothing. But should the public, the former governor, or his lawyers, take that as a sign, one way or the other about the potential success of his challenge?
“No, not really,” says Northwestern Law Professor Deborah Borman. “A case like this, where there’s a lot of notoriety, where it’s complicated, it’s not unusual for the justices to take extra time.”
During the arguments, the judges challenged both sides. But they seemed especially blunt with Assistant United States Attorney Debra Riggs Bonimici.
“Where is the line that differentiates legal horse trading from a federal offense that puts you in prison?” asked Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner. It was a sentiment echoed by her colleague, judge Frank Easterbrook.
“Is there any earlier case in which there was a criminal conviction, based on a promise to swap one political job for another?” Easterbrook asked, noting the example from history where California Governor Earl Warren threw his support behind Dwight Eisenhower, in exchange for a promised appointment to the Supreme Court.
“It would be an act of shysterism to try to say that was OK and what Blagojevich did was not OK,” Easterbrook declared. “The line between that, and this, can’t be the distinction between historical honor, and felon status.”
Ironically, the Warren-Eisenhower argument had been made by Blagojevich himself during his second trial. (For the record, Eisenhower denied ever making such a deal).
But the judges were hard on the defense too, noting that on the undercover tapes, Blagojevich was heard lamenting that all he would receive in return for a Senate pick was “appreciation.”
“Doesn’t that tend to show that he was acting for private gain rather than any sort of public interest?” Rovner asked.
Borman cautioned that judges rarely telegraph their intentions with those questions.
“They do not,” she said. “You can sit there and say, ‘I think I know, I think I saw this eye contact. I think by the questions it seems this.’ And then the opinion comes out, and it’s exactly the opposite of what you were thinking!”
There have been no public communications from Blagojevich in the two-plus years he has been in the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado. His attorneys declined comment, on the continuing wait for the appeal outcome.