United States

Supreme Court Meets to Consider Blagojevich Appeal Request

The decision could come as soon as Monday

For Rod Blagojevich and his family, it promises to be a long weekend.

“We’re just hoping for the best,” Patti Blagojevich told NBC5.  “It makes it difficult for everybody to concentrate.”

On Friday, the United States Supreme Court was scheduled to begin considering Blagojevich’s request that they hear his appeal.  Such conference proceedings take place behind closed doors, but a decision could be announced as early as Monday.

The former governor is in his 7th year of a 14 year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in suburban Denver.

There is a larger issue than Blagojevich’s freedom.  Numerous politicians and others have 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, 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 disagree.

“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 argue clarification is needed. 

“Although Blagojevich is an unsympathetic petitioner, the court should hear his case,” David Keating, President of the Institute of Free Speech wrote this 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.”

There are no hard and fast rules about how the Court might proceed.  They could reveal a decision Monday.  Or they could kick the matter to another conference next Friday. 

In the meantime, Blagojevich and his family wait, knowing this is his last appeal, and short of a commutation from the White House, his last hope of getting out of prison early.

“When you know in your heart what your actions were and what your intentions were, and you know you were always trying to stay on the right side of the law, you’re hopeful and optimistic that this tremendous injustice is going to be righted,” Patti Blagojevich told NBC5, “and we’ll get some justice for our family and my husband will come home.”

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