Supreme Court

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Blagojevich Appeal

With a simple one-line announcement, the United States Supreme Court announced Monday they will not hear the appeal of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. 

It was a devastating blow to Blagojevich, his family, and legal team, who had hoped they would get good news when the court released its order list at 8:30 am. Instead, the Blagojevich case merely appeared on the list under the caption “Certiorari denied”, meaning the Court would not consider the case. 

The Court held discussions of the Blagojevich case as part of a scheduled case conference last Friday. 

“Rod, Amy, Annie and I could not be more disappointed in the decision today by the U.S. Supreme Court," Patti Blagojevich told NBC 5 Monday. "From the beginning we’ve had faith in the system and have felt the court would bring Rod back to us. Now, with the judiciary no longer an option, we’ll have to put our faith elsewhere and find another way."

For Blagojevich, this was almost certainly the final legal avenue to potentially shorten his time in prison. The former governor is in his 7th year of a 14 year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in suburban Denver. 

Now, the former governor’s best hope would be for President Donald Trump to commute his sentence. Many observers believe that is not a far-fetched scenario. The President is familiar with Blagojevich, who was a contestant on his “Celebrity Apprentice” program while he was awaiting trial. 

“The president knows Rod, he was on his show,” Patti Blagojevich told NBC5 last Friday. “He said nice things to him when he was on the show, he’s spoken favorably about Rod subsequent to that. So I think that, of any of our recent presidents we probably have the best shot with President Trump because he does have that relationship with Rod.” 

Blagojevich, his family, and supporters had argued there was a larger issue at stake than the former governor’s freedom. Numerous politicians and others filed briefs with the court, asking that they take Blagojevich’s case to clear up what even opponents agree is arcane and at times, even conflicting campaign finance law. 

“Why is it so easy to put politicians in jail in the Midwest, and so difficult on the east coast,” asked Leonard Goodman, Blagojevich’s attorney. “If we’re going to require elected officials who aren’t independently wealthy to go out and raise funds, tell them what the line is so that they can follow the rules.” 

At issue, he argued, one standard (McCormick v. United States) which says a politician breaks the law if he makes an explicit promise to do something in exchange for a campaign contribution. But another ruling (Evans v. United States) presents a conflict in the eyes of many critics---that the lawmaker only needs to believe that something is expected.

“Very murky standards,” Goodman says. “Federal judges have pronounced themselves confused by these standards and asked the Supreme Court to step in and clarify.” 

Prosecutors disagreed.

“No such conflict exists,” the government wrote in its brief for the high court. “Petitioner’s argument is without merit; and this would be a poor case to address the argument in any event.” 

“Petitioner has presented no consistent position on what ‘explicit’ means,” the government argued. 

But other observers who filed briefs with the court insisted clarification was needed. 

“Although Blagojevich is an unsympathetic petitioner, the court should hear his case,” David Keating, President of the Institute of Free Speech wrote last week in the publication The Hill. “The Supreme Court finally has a chance to provide clarity and a uniform standard nationally by taking this case.” 

The Court declined to take that chance, rejecting Blagojevich’s appeal, without comment.

"Throughout this grueling saga we’ve maintained hope that Rod will come back home where he belongs," Patti Blagojevich said. "Although we are disheartened by this decision, we are thankful for the outpouring of support we’ve received along the way. We will continue to push forward and work towards the day when our family can be whole again.”

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