Here in Illinois we have some well-known difficulties with our elected officials. Various reports about Rod Blagojevich since Tuesday have run through our list of not-so-distinguished former governors. One is Otto Kerner, Jr., governor from 1961 to 1968. Kerner resigned in 1968 to join the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
In February 1973, while still a member of the Seventh
Circuit, Kerner and his campaign manager were convicted for "a variety of
offenses arising out of their activities on behalf of certain Illinois
Trying a Seventh Circuit judge in the Northern District of Illinois raises some obvious concerns. Chief Justice Warren Burger therefore designated a judge from the Eastern District of Tennessee to preside over the trial in Chicago. Burger also designated senior judges from the Eighth, Second, and Tenth Circuits to hear the appeal. Before a Seventh Circuit panel free of any actual Seventh Circuit judges, Kerner argued in part that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction "to try a federal judge upon an indictment before his removal from office by the impeachment process." Isaacs, 493 F.2d at 1140. The panel disagreed, but it did reverse Kerner's convictions on some of the counts.
Although he took a leave of absence from the court after his indictment in December 1971 and lost his chambers and staff in April 1973, Kerner didn’t resign from the Seventh Circuit until July 1974, more than a year after his conviction. For all practical purposes, the Seventh Circuit was short one judge for three years. Judge William Bauer finally replaced Kerner in December 1974. Kerner spent under eight months in prison and died in 1976.
Note: In the photograph above, Judge Kerner is standing to the right of John Paul Stevens. This photo is found on page 178 of Rayman Solomon’s History of the Seventh Circuit 1891-1941 (1981), which at pages 179-180 discusses many of the details above. Two other sources for the information above are Robert Sprecher, Review of The Politics of Federal Judicial Administration, 1974 Ariz. St. L.J. 723, 733 (1974) and Robert P. Murrian, To Do Justice Between Man and Man: Tribute to Judge Robert L. Taylor, 55 Tenn. L. Rev. xi, xiii (1988).