Judiciary 'has no power to unimpeach,' federal judge says while citing Dr. Seuss

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GettyImages-Rod Blagojevich 2021

Former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the press outside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in August 2021 in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A federal judge has tossed former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s pro se lawsuit seeking the right to run for political office, despite his impeachment and conviction, saying the complaint is “riddled with problems” and is an “Issue-Spotting Wonderland.”

U.S. District Judge Steven C. Seeger of the Northern District of Illinois said Blagojevich made several mistakes when he claimed that the Illinois Senate violated the First Amendment, the Sixth Amendment and the 14th Amendment by disqualifying him from future office in the state, in violation of Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act.

Among the problems cited by Seeger: Blagojevich wrongly sued the state of Illinois and the Illinois General Assembly, rather than naming a person as a defendant under Section 1983; he cites the Sixth Amendment, but it applies to criminal cases and not impeachment proceedings; he lacks standing to assert First Amendment voting rights of voters; and he has said he is unsure whether he even wants to run for office, which could mean that his claim isn’t ripe for adjudication.

The bigger problem, Seeger said in his March 21 opinion, is that a federal court can’t get involved in impeachment decisions.

“The bottom line is that the judiciary has no power to unimpeach, unconvict and unremove a public official,” Seeger wrote. “The legislature taketh away, and the judiciary cannot giveth back.”

The Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press and Law360 are among the publications with coverage.

In 2011, Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison for political corruption, but he served only eight years before then-President Donald Trump commuted the sentence in February 2020. Blagojevich was a lawyer before his May 2020 disbarment, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Seeger is known for his opinions pillorying lawyers. He said a food labeling lawyer’s “warehouse of complaints” are “not fit for public consumption,” a Chicago lawyer’s motion was littered with “unnecessary potshots and hyperbole,” and lawyers in a trademark suit should be aware that “‘judge shopping’ ain’t a thing here.”

In the hyperbole case, Seeger declared that “searching for over-the-top sentences in the motion is like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Seeger returned to the analogy in Blagojevich’s case.

“The complaint is riddled with problems,” he wrote. “If the problems are fish in a barrel, the complaint contains an entire school of tuna. It is a target-rich environment. The complaint is an Issue-Spotting Wonderland.”

Seeger noted that the case began with “great fanfare” as Blagojevich announced with “a gaggle of press in tow” that he might want to return to public life.

“The case started with a megaphone, but it ends with a whimper,” Seeger wrote. “Sometimes cases in the federal courthouse attract publicity. But the courthouse is no place for a publicity stunt.”

Seeger quoted from the 1972 Dr. Seuss book Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!

“The time has come. The time has come. The time is now. Just Go. Go. Go! I don’t care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!”

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