CHICAGO (CBS) — A week after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was released from prison, the state agency that regulates attorneys took a key step to prevent him from ever practicing law again in Illinois.
The Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission held a hearing on Tuesday where an agency attorney made the case to permanently disbar Blagojevich. In a formal complaint against the former governor, ARDC attorney Christopher Heredia argued Blagojevich’s crimes “reflect adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.”
Blagojevich’s law license has been suspended since his 2011 conviction on multiple corruption charges, but the ARDC couldn’t move forward on disbarring him until all of his appeals had been exhausted. Months after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case in 2018, the ARDC began that process, and Tuesday’s hearing was the last step before a final ruling, which could be a matter of weeks away.
Blagojevich, 63, did not attend the hearing, and in an interview with CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov, he said, “Frankly, I’m not really that interested.”
The former governor said he never even considered fighting to keep his law license. Blagojevich said he hasn’t practiced law in 25 years, and compared trying to do so now to flying on a plane with a pilot in a similar situation.
“How would you like to get onto a plane with a pilot who hasn’t flown a plane for 25 years? I don’t want to hurt anybody. It’s been a long, long time. So, whatever happens will happen. I’m certain that whatever they end up doing will not put me in a position to ever again handle a legal case in that building over there,” he said, referring to the Daley Center courthouse.
Tuesday’s hearing came six months after the ARDC filed a formal complaint, citing the former governor’s corruption conviction as a reason to permanently disbar him.
In 2011, a federal jury convicted Blagojevich of, among other things, trying to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat once held by Barack Obama before he was elected president in 2008. A federal jury also convicted him of charges he tried to shake down a racetrack owner, a tollway construction company executive, and the CEO of a children’s hospital; and for lying to the feds to cover it all up.
While an appeals court later overturned some of his convictions, it upheld most of them, and the courts ultimately upheld his 14-year prison sentence.
President Donald Trump commuted his sentence last week, releasing Blagojevich from prison just weeks shy of 8 years behind bars. He remains on two years of supervised release – the federal equivalent of parole.
In addition to the likely loss of his law license, Blagojevich is barred from holding elected office in Illinois again. When the Illinois Senate unanimously voted to remove him as governor in 2009, they also voted to disqualify him from holding elected office again in Illinois.