Illinois panel recommends ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich be disbarred for corruption convictions

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CHICAGO — In a swift decision, a state panel on Tuesday recommended former Gov. Rod Blagojevich should be disbarred for his conviction in an array of brazen corruption schemes when he was in office.

The ruling by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission came just one week after the three-member panel heard evidence of Blagojevich’s worst hits as governor, including his convictions for attempting to sell a U.S. Senate seat, shaking down the CEO of a children’s hospital for campaign cash and lying to the FBI.

The four-page decision, which still must be approved by the Illinois Supreme Court, noted that Blagojevich sought to “further his own interests” as governor despite his oath of office and that to this day, “he has not acknowledged that his conduct was wrongful or expressed any remorse.”

“His failure to appear for his disciplinary hearing demonstrates a lack of respect for the disciplinary process and the legal profession,” the ruling stated. Blagojevich does have an opportunity to appeal the decision.

In a statement after the ruling was issued, Blagojevich noted he hasn’t practiced law since 1995.

“Imagine yourself sitting on a plane and then the pilot announces before takeoff that he hasn’t flown in 25 years,” Blagojevich said. “Wouldn’t you want to get off that plane? I don’t want to hurt anybody.”

Blagojevich’s likely disbarment has been nearly a decade in the making and comes just weeks after President Donald Trump commuted Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence, springing him from prison more than four years early.

The ARDC’s formal complaint, filed last August, was delayed for years because, by Illinois law, regulators have to wait until all appellate options are over before moving to permanently revoke a lawyer’s license.

In April 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the former governor’s appeal, marking the end of a decadelong legal road.

Since the only evidence against Blagojevich are the facts behind his criminal conviction — something he’s not allowed to relitigate before the disciplinary board — the hearing last week was in large part a formality.

Blagojevich’s longtime attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, said the ex-governor was in a “damned if he did, damned if he didn’t” situation in defending his law license, knowing that if he showed up to defend himself he would have been accused of lying all over again.

Blagojevich, 63, graduated from law school at Pepperdine University in 1983 and was admitted to the Illinois bar a year later, records show.

His only legal experience came as a young assistant Cook County state’s attorney years before entering politics.


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