Schock's lawyers to press Supreme Court to take up his case

Schock's lawyers to press Supreme Court to take up his case
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The legal team for former Rep. Aaron SchockAaron Jon SchockSchock's lawyers to press Supreme Court to take up his case Appeals court rejects Schock's effort to dismiss indictment Ethics Committee to expand campaign finance investigation of Tennessee Republican MORE (R-Ill.) is petitioning the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision not to throw out his indictment.

The filing, submitted on Monday evening, comes before a scheduled hearing on Friday in which the U.S. District Court in the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division, will determine how it wants to move forward with the case.

The former Illinois lawmaker stepped down from Congress in 2015 following a firestorm over allegedly spending government funds for personal use. In 2016, the federal government indicted Schock on 24 counts including wire fraud, theft of government funds and making false statements. 

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Last November, the court paused the proceedings against Schock until the decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed the case against him to go forward.

Schock’s lawyers at McGuireWoods had attempted to toss the indictment, saying that the government violated the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, which protects those working on Capitol Hill from being prosecuted for “legislative acts.” 

The court wrote, however, that the Speech or Debate Clause "does not help Schock, for a simple reason: the indictment arises out of applications for reimbursements, which are not speeches, debates, or any other part of the legislative process."

George Terwilliger, Schock's lead attorney, said following the appeals court ruling that he was "disappointed" by the outcome.

“The ruling is not consistent with those rendered by other U.S. Courts of Appeals in similar circumstances," he said in a statement at the time, "thus we will be evaluating our options regarding further appeal on these constitutional issues."

"The ruling does not have any impact on the fact that the indictment is founded upon prosecutors’ after-the-fact interpretation of reimbursement rules established and administered by Congress,” Terwilliger continued. “As we continue to contend in court, the charges are the result of a determination to indict in spite of the true facts, not because of them. We are confident justice will ultimately prevail in a case that has unnecessarily now dragged on for more than two years at significant taxpayer expense.”

Lawyers for Schock also had said the government violated separation-of-powers principles, with federal law enforcement officials overextending their power to prosecute him.

Other charges against Schock include allegedly submitting inaccurate expense reports while in Congress, pocketing tens of thousands of dollars in reimbursement cash and then subsequently lying on his tax returns by not including it as part of his income. 

While in Congress, he allegedly sought to be reimbursed for $15,000 of the $40,000 cost of remodeling his office and often overstated how many miles he drove to gain more money back on expense reimbursements. 

The government overstepped, his lawyers argued, because the House regulates the rules governing reimbursement claims. The Justice Department, therefore, doesn’t have the ability to determine whether these violations occurred. 

“Judges regularly interpret, apply, and occasionally nullify rules promulgated by the President or another part of the Executive Branch, as well as statutes enacted by the Legislative Branch; why would reimbursement rules be different?” the appeals court wrote in its decision.

Schock’s lawyers have also accused the FBI of sending confidential informants into Schock’s office while he was a sitting congressman, which they say crosses the line between the judicial and the legislative branches.

Following the appeals court ruling in May, Schock’s attorneys had the option of appealing the ruling to back to the 7th Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court.

On Monday, Schock’s legal team told the U.S. District Court in the Central District of Illinois that it would be filing a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court and asked to continue the hold on the trial until the high court decided whether it would take the appeal.

The government is expected to push back on the request, according to the court filing, and lawyers for the defense ask that the trial date be pushed until the Supreme Court makes its decision — as early as this summer or as late as next January.

The Supreme Court previously overturned corruption convictions of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), effectively making trying elected officials for corruption even more difficult going forward.

All eyes will be on which cases the Supreme Court chooses to take up in its next session, as decisions could be shaped by a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has announced his retirement.