CHICAGO — Convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has never really been considered a giant in the legal profession, used to joke that he'd spent more time frolicking on the beach at his law school in Malibu, Calif., than he did cracking books.
When he did buckle down and read, it was often history books, not case law, he said.
"I had a man crush on Alexander Hamilton," Blagojevich testified at his corruption trial in 2011 about why he almost flunked out of Pepperdine University.
Now, as Blagojevich awaits word at a Colorado federal prison on whether President Donald Trump will commute his 14-year sentence, the Illinois panel that licenses and disciplines attorneys has quietly moved to finally take Blagojevich's law license away permanently.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a formal complaint citing Blagojevich's conviction on an array of federal corruption charges and requesting a hearing before a disciplinary panel, online ARDC records show.
In what some might construe as a vast understatement, the complaint said the crimes for which Blagojevich was convicted -- including trying to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate, shaking down the owner of a children's hospital and lying to the FBI -- "adversely reflect on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer."
The complaint, dated Aug. 1, comes eight years after the Illinois Supreme Court suspended Blagojevich's law license indefinitely after his conviction at a second trial on counts of wire fraud, bribery and attempted extortion.
James Grogan, the ARDC's deputy administrator and chief counsel, said the complaint was served on one of Blagojevich's attorneys on Aug. 7 -- the same day Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he was seriously considering commuting Blagojevich's sentence, a decision that would spring him from prison about five years early.
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Grogan said the delay in moving to disbar Blagojevich came 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.
"Unless you agree to essentially disbar yourself, we have to wait," Grogan said.
Blagojevich has until Aug 28 to respond, Grogan said. If nothing is filed, he likely would be found liable by default and automatically disbarred.
Even if the complaint did eventually go to a hearing, it would essentially be a formality, Grogan said, since the only evidence against Blagojevich is his criminal conviction -- something he's not allowed to relitigate before the disciplinary board.
Blagojevich, 62, who served as Illinois governor from 2003 until his impeachment and removal from office in early 2009, is currently scheduled to be released from the low-security federal prison camp outside Denver in March 2024.
He graduated from law school at Pepperdine 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, where he was assigned to a traffic courtroom years before entering politics.
On the ARDC website, Blagojevich still lists his home address in Chicago's Ravenswood Manor neighborhood as his registered business address.