Do you have a photo that could go here? Submit it for this profile by emailing us!
|Current Court Information:|
|United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois|
|Alternative court:||United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court|
|Alternative term:||5/18/2008 - 5/18/2015|
|Appointed by:||Ronald Reagan|
|Active:||4/22/1987 - Present|
|Preceded by:||Frank McGarr|
|Home State:||Chicago, IL|
|Bachelors:||U. of Chicago, B.A., 1962|
|Law School:||Harvard Law School, J.D., 1965|
|Grad. School:||U. of Chicago, M.A., 1962|
James Block Zagel is an Article III Federal Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He joined the court in 1987 after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Zagel also serves on the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. His term runs from May 18, 2008 until May 18, 2015.
Early life and education
- Assistant state's attorney, Cook County, Illinois, 1965-1969
- Assistant attorney general, State of Illinois, 1969-1977
- Deputy chief, Criminal Justice Division, 1969-1970
- Chief, Criminal Justice Division, 1970-1977
- Chief prosecuting attorney, Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, 1973-1975
- Chief assistant attorney general, State of Arizona, 1975
- Executive director, Illinois Law Enforcement Commission, 1977-1979
- Director, Department of Revenue, State of Illinois, 1979-1980
- Chairman, Governor's Advisory Counsel on Criminal Justice Legislation, 1980-1987
- Director of state police, State of Illinois, 1980-1987 
Northern District of Illinois
On the recommendation of U.S. Congressman Henry Hyde, Zagel was nominated to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by President Ronald Reagan on February 2, 1987, to a seat vacated by Frank McGarr. Zagel was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 21, 1987 on a Senate voice vote and received his commission on April 22, 1987. 
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
Zagel also concurrently serves on the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He was appointed on May 18, 2008 and his term will end on May 18, 2015.
The legal community in the State of Illinois respects Zagel's ability as a federal judge. Rick Halprin who was an attorney in the highly-publicized Family Secrets trial in 2007, told the Chicago Tribune on May 17, 2010 that the judge is well-known for his handling of high profile trials correctly. Zagel was the presiding judge in 2007 trial involving a highly regarded organized crime outfit in Chicago. Halprin also said that Zagel makes it a point to meet with attorneys before the day's courtroom activity begins in order to resolve any legal conflicts that could affect an impartial jury verdict. Sergio Acosta who was a former prosecutor for the Northern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney's Office said that the judge "runs a no nonsense courtroom." Acosta also said: "he is one of the most highly regarded judges in the building.".
A notable case on this page needs to be updated.
Chicago wrongful rape
Judge Zagel presided over a case in which a Chicago man claimed the Chicago Police framed him in securing a 1993 rape conviction which was later thrown out due to DNA evidence. The judge dismissed the lawsuit on the basis that there was not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to find that the Chicago Police illegally obtained evidence to secure the conviction of Dana Holland. Holland was cleared of his rape conviction in 2002 after DNA evidence exonerated him. 
Rod Blagojevich trial
When the indictment of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was released on April 2, 2009, it was noted that Judge Zagel will preside over the trial. The trial will include Rod Blagojevich, his brother Rob Blagojevich and former Chief of Staff John Harris. The grand jury under Judge Zagel returned a 19-count indictment, accusing the impeached governor of what US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called "pervasive fraud" since before his first term in 2002. The government claims Blagojevich and his co-conspirators set out to illegally obtain millions of dollars, to be distributed once the governor left office. 
Also stated in the indictment are claims by the U.S. Attorney that Blagojevich tried to extort a congressman. It was reported and later confirmed on the evening of April 2, 2009 (the date the indictment was released) by WMAQ-TV 5 (NBC Affiliate in Chicago) that the congressman targeted was President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. 
Blagojevich is charged with 16 felony counts, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents. The ex-governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, was not charged in the grand jury indictment. However, the Northern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney's Office asserts that hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions and salary were funneled to the former First Lady of Illinois through former real estate developer Tony Rezko, though Mrs. Blagojevich did no work for the developer. 
In a new development in the case, former Chief of Staff to Governor Blagojevich, John Harris, entered into a plea agreement with Judge Zagel and federal prosecutors. On July 8, 2009, Harris pleaded guilty on reduced charges in exchange for testifying against the former Governor. Harris, who is yet to be sentenced by Judge Zagel, will face up to three years in federal prison. 
On August 21, 2009, Judge Zagel denied a request by Blagojevich's defense team to open all sealed records and transcripts related to the case. Zagel agreed with federal prosecutors that if the records were un-sealed, the integrity of the case could be harmed. However, Judge Zagel will allow the media to have access to redacted transcripts and records involving Blagojevich's co-defendant William Cellini. 
On October 19, 2009, Judge Zagel allowed for the former Illinois Governor to be on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice. However, Judge Zagel fears that the former Governor may discuss the case on the show over confessional elements the show presents. 
Attorneys for the former Illinois Governor requested Judge Zagel to delay the trial scheduled to begin in June of 2009 because of the pending outcome of three Supreme Court cases which is a key to the defense team's success. On November 18, 2009, the judge ruled against the motion, but has the discretion to not start the trial until September of 2009. 
On December 17, 2009, federal prosecutors told Judge Zagel that they will plan to re-indict the former Governor in January or February. At the same time, prosecutors are determining if they will call President Barack Obama as a witness during the trial. 
Blagojevich was re-indicted on February 4, 2010, on eight new counts including the attempted extortion of former Illinois U.S. Congressman Rahm Emanuel. Prosecutors planned on adding eight new charges to keep the case on track for a June 2010 trial date, and in the event that the Supreme Court of the United States rules the honest services statute unconstitutional. Blagojevich is charged with three counts of violating the honest services statute. 
Judge Zagel dismissed a motion by Blagojevich's attorneys on February 8, 2010 to look early at key evidence to be presented in the trial by federal prosecutors. Blagojevich's legal team said that the evidence was based in rhetoric and not sound legal fact. The judge ruled that Blagojevich's attorneys would receive the information they were seeking closer to the trial and denied the motion. 
During a plea hearing in response to the February 4th indictment, Blagojevich pleaded not guilty to all eight of the counts on February 10, 2010. After the plea hearing, the former Illinois Governor told the media that he planned to ask his attorneys to request that the court play all the recorded wiretaps in relation to his arrest. 
Attorneys for Blagojevich asked Judge Zagel to delay the start of his trial on March 11, 2010. The request came after attorneys felt that there are questions that still need to be answered on some of the charges against him. Blagojevich's attorneys feel that without more time to prepare, he would be deprived of his Sixth Amendment rights to adequate legal representation. The trial is scheduled to begin on June 3, 2010 and is expected to last six months.
On March 15, 2010, Federal prosecutors asked Judge Zagel to deny a motion to delay the Blagojevich trial. The prosecutors argued that the public interest in the case warranted a quick resolution to the trial and felt that Blagojevich and his attorneys had more than enough time to prepare the case.. Judge Zagel scheduled a hearing on March 17, 2010 to decide if another delay was granted
During a hearing on March 17, 2010, Judge Zagel denied the motion to delay the trial involving the former Governor. The judge found that a U.S. Supreme Court case regarding some of the charges against Blagojevich would not affect the outcome of the trial. The trial is still scheduled to begin on June 3, 2010.
Federal prosecutors asked Judge Zagel on April 7, 2010 to allow Blagojevich's former legal counsel who served him while in office to testify in the June trial. William Quinlan, the former general counsel for the Illinois Governor was asked to testify after prosecutors felt he had information that was key to their case, despite the fact that he refused to be interviewed by the FBI during the wiretap process. No decision has been made in the case.
Major news outlets in Chicago including the Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press asked Judge Zagel, on April 8, 2010, to unseal a key document in the trial: The Santiago Proffer. This document is considered to be the prosecution's road map in that it gives details on witnesses they plan to call during the trial. Federal prosecutors, however, did not want any key trial documents released to the media without the approval of Blagojevich's attorneys and the judge. Zagel, on April 9, 2010, allowed parts of the Santiago Proffer to be made public. This came after defense attorneys for Blagojevich complained that, if all the proffer was released, jury selection would be tainted. Despite ruling the case in favor of the media, Judge Zagel reserved the right of defense attorneys to redact certain parts of the documents to maintain the integrity of the jury selection.
On April 15, 2010, Rob Blagojevich, the brother of Rod Blagojevich, asked Judge Zagel for a separate trial. Attorneys for the former Governor's brother claimed that all the attention that was being put on Rod Blagojevich would have a "spill over" effect which would not give his brother Rob a fair trial. This motion to grant a separate trial was denied.
During another pre-trial hearing on April 21, 2010, Judge Zagel allowed some of the wiretaps performed by the FBI before Rod Blagojevich's arrest to be played in court. Zagel made it clear to both the prosecution and the defense during the hearing that he will have the ultimate authority on what tapes are played. Blagojevich's attorneys have until May 14, 2010 to have a list of tapes they want played during the trial for the judge to consider.
Blagojevich's attorneys, on April 22, 2010, asked that President Barack Obama be subpoenaed to testify in the former Governor's trial. They felt that there was information about a meeting between a union adviser and the President about Valerie Jarratt's appointment to Obama's former Senate seat. Also, the attorneys claim that a meeting between the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Jesse Jackson, Jr. should be mentioned during the trial. Judge Zagel denied that request on April 30, 2010, claiming that the testimony of the President of the United States would not be material for the trial.
Attorneys for Rod Blagojevich will not be allowed to mention the suicide of one of the Governor's former fundraisers during a May 6, 2010 hearing. Federal prosecutors asked for the ban because they felt the suicide of former Blagojevich fundraiser Christopher G. Kelly is not relevant to the trial. In addition to the ban, Judge Zagel also accepted the prosecution's request to limit the use of certain tactics in the trial.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, on May 11, 2010, denied an appeal by Blagojevich's attorneys to delay the trial scheduled for June 3, 2010. Attorneys for Blagojevich argued that the trial should be delayed in order for them to prepare for the possibility that half of the charges Blagojevich faces could be thrown out pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Honest Services Act. The ruling from the appeals court stated that Blagojevich faces other charges and the court would not be able to review the charges pending a Supreme Court decision. After the ruling was issued, Blagojevich's attorneys planned to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of the United States. The request to appeal the trial delay to the Supreme Court was filed on May 18, 2010.
Judge Zagel also ruled on May 17, 2010, that all jurors selected in the Rod Blagjoevich trial will not have their full names revealed in order to prevent harassment. All jurors selected in the case will be referred to by numbers. The judge was concerned with possible jury tampering by the defendants and questionings by online media if the jurors' full identities were released.
The trial begins
The trial began on June 3, 2010, with jury selection for the trial. Judge Zagel told attorneys before the jury selection that he will interview 34 jurors a day until a full panel of jurors has been formed. Zagel will be going through multiple rounds of jury selection and will consider those who may have to miss events such as weddings and graduations in order to advance potential jurors into the next round.
During the jury selection, Judge Zagel denied another attempt to postpone the trial of Rod Blagojevich on June 4, 2010. The decision prompted emotional reaction from former First Lady Patti Blagojevich who cried over the ruling. Despite Mrs. Blagojevich's reaction to the ruling, the former Illinois Governor has praised Judge Zagel for being quick on jury selection. Jury selection could be complete by June 7, 2010 in which the final cut would call for 20 persons to serve on the jury. There would be 8 alternate jurors on hand in the event if any juror gets dismissed during the trial.
The jury was seated on June 7, 2010 in which Judge Zagel made the final cut on who would serve on the jury. Opening statements in the trial began on June 8, 2010.
Conviction, motion for retrail
Blagojevich was convicted of wire fraud, bribery, attempted extortion and conspiracy in June of 2011. However, the following July 25th, he filed a motion for a retrial, citing judicial errors and bias.
A hearing for sentencing Blagojevich took place on December 6, 2011. Blagojevich will get a chance to address the court directly and according to his attorney will not be reading from a prepared script.
On December 7, 2011, Judge Zagel announced the sentence as a $20,000 fine and 14 years in prison to begin within 90 days. Judge Zagel was not inclined towards the leniency that Blagojevich's lawyers sought, noting that Blagojevich's apology to the state came late and that his actions have done much damage in the form of eroding public trust. Despite this, the sentence is a bit under the 15 to 20 years asked for by the prosecution.
Blagojevich trial documents
- CLICK HERE for the copy of the plea deal for John Harris, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.
- WMAQ-TV 5 of Chicago provides this link to the official indictment: Link to the 75 Page Grand Jury Indictment of Rod R. Blagojevich
- Chicago Sun-Times provides this link to the official re-indictment: Link to the 113 Page Grand Jury Re-Indictment of Rod R. Blagojevich
- Chicago Sun-Times provides this link to the request by Blagojevich's attorneys to play all related wiretaps in court Link to the request
- WMAQ-TV 5 of Chicago provides this link to the Seventh Circuit denying a delay to the start of the trial on May 11, 2010 Link to the Seventh Circuit Ruling
Judge Zagel also presided over the trial of William Cellini, a major Illinois power broker charged in connection with the Rob Blagojevich corruption case. The trial began on October 3, 2011, as a separate trial from Blagojevich's own, though they had been scheduled to be tried together. Cellini, now 76, has for a long time been in charge of major fundraisers for GOP candidates. According to federal prosecutors, these fundraisers had massive influence over state government agencies during 26 consecutive years of rule by Republican governors. Then, in 2002, with Democrat Blagojevich's election, Cellini was apparently threatened with weakening influence over state politics. Federal prosecutors then say he, "shifted his allegiance, agreeing secretly to raise money for Blagojevich," and then conspired with Blagojevich's aides in an attempt to proffer 1.5 million dollars from a Hollywood producer. Cellini has been charged with federal fraud, conspiracy and attempted extortion charges.
Judge Zagel is the presiding judge in the trial of Chicago cab driver Raja Kahn. Kahn was charged with wiring a few hundred dollars overseas to support the terrorist group al-Qaida International. Kahn pleaded not guilty to the charges against him on April 5, 2010. No trial date has been announced.
- News: Blagojevich sentenced to 14 years in prison, December 8, 2011
- ↑ Current Judges of the FISC
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Judge Zagel Biography from the Federal Judicial Center.
- ↑ "THOMAS" James Zagel USDC, NDIL confirmation: PN104-100
- ↑ Current Judges of the FISC
- ↑ Chicago Tribune "Blagojevich trial judge regarded as smart, unflappable", May 17, 2010
- ↑ "Chicago Tribune" Chicago cops didn't frame man wrongly convicted in rape, U.S. judge rules, November 5, 2009
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 WMAQ-NBC Chicago 5 "Blagojevich Charged with "Pervasive Fraud", April 2, 2009
- ↑ "Chicago Breaking News" Blagojevich pleads not guilty, April 14, 2009
- ↑ "Chicago Breaking News" Ex-Blagojevich aide pleads guilty, July 8, 2009
- ↑ "Stateline.com" Federal Judge Denies Requests To Open All Blagojevich Records, August 21, 2009
- ↑ Chicago Sun-Times "Judge fears Blagojevich might talk about case on 'Celebrity Apprentice", October 20, 2009
- ↑ ABC 7 Chicago "Judge:Blago trial to start in June", November 18, 2009
- ↑ UPI "Blagojevich lawyers seek Obama interview", December 17, 2009
- ↑ Chicago Sun-Times "Blago Indicted Again, Adding Eight New Counts, Including Attempted Extortion of Rahm Emanuel", February 4, 2010
- ↑ Springfield State-Journal Register "Judge denies early look at prosecution evidence in Blagojevich case", February 8, 2010
- ↑ Chicago Sun-Times "Blagojevich: Play all wiretaps in court", February 10, 2010
- ↑ Google News "Blagojevich asks judge to delay corruption trial", March 11, 2010
- ↑ Google News "Feds urge judge to not delay Blagojevich trial", March 15, 2010
- ↑ My FOX Chicago "Blagojevich Case Back in Court Wednesday", March 15, 2010
- ↑ New York Times "Illinois: No Delay for Blagojevich Trial", March 17, 2010
- ↑ CBS 2 Chicago "Feds: Make Former Blagojevich Lawyer Testify", April 7, 2010
- ↑ Chicago Sun-Times "Chicago news outlets ask judge to unseal Blagojevich material", April 8, 2010
- ↑ NBC Chicago "Judge Agrees to Release Portions of Blago Doc", April 9, 2010
- ↑ Google News "Blagojevich brother asks for separate trial", April 15, 2010
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 Chicago Tribune "No head-butting in court, judge tells Blagojevich", April 21, 2010
- ↑ Chicago Sun-Times "Blago calls out Obama to testify", April 23, 2010
- ↑ Chicago Sun-Times "Judge: Obama won't have to testify at Blagojevich trial", April 30, 2010
- ↑ CBS 2 Chicago "Blagojevich Lawyers Can't Mention Suicide at Trial", May 6, 2010
- ↑ NBC Chicago "Request to Delay Blagojevich Trial Denied", May 11, 2010
- ↑ ABC 7 Chicago "Blagojevich lawyers want to delay start of trial", May 18, 2010
- ↑ ABC 7 Chicago "Jurors to remain anonymous in Blago trial", May 17, 2010
- ↑ Chicago Breaking News "Jury selection in Blagojevich trial begins today", June 3, 2010
- ↑ My FOX Illinois "Patti Blagojevich Cries at Judge’s Denial of Postponement", June 4, 2010
- ↑ St. Louis Post-Dispatch "With jury pool in place, Blagojevich trial to start", June 8, 2010
- ↑ Radio 720 WGN, "Blagojevich asks for new trial, cites judicial bias", July 26, 2011
- ↑ Associated Press "Blagojevich the unknown variable at today's sentencing," December 6, 2011
- ↑ CNN "Blagojevich gets 14 years in prison for corruption," December 7, 2011
- ↑ Chicago Tribune "Longtime power broker faces trial in Blagojevich scandal," September 25, 2011
- ↑ Chicago Tribune "Cabdriver pleads not guilty to terror charges", April 5, 2010
|Federal judicial offices|
|Northern District of Illinois
|Former Article III judges|
|Former Chief judges|
Bartlett • Beam • Becker • Bork • Cacheris • Cardamone • Chapman • Coughenour • Cox • Crow • Cyr • Doumar • Eschbach • Forrester • Garwood • Gibson • Glasser • Hall • Hamilton • Head • Jones • Kiser • Krenzler • Lee • Magnuson • McLaughlin • Miner • Moore • Nowlin • O'Connor • Pierce • Posner • Potter • Russell • Ryan • Shabaz • Sprizzo • Stevens • Waters • Wilhoit • Wilkins • Winter
Acker • Acosta • Altimari • Bell • Bissell • Black • Bullock • Caldwell • Coffey • Contie • Coyle • Dowd • Fagg • Fong • Fox • Gadbois • Gibson • Ginsburg • Hart • Higginbotham • Hogan • Irving • Jackson • Jolly • Kanne • Kovachevich • Krupansky • Lynch • Mansmann • McNamara • Mencer • Mentz • Mihm • Moody • Nordberg • Paul • Pieras • Plunkett • Porfilio • Potter • Pratt • Rafeedie • Restani • Roberts • Scalia • Selya • Telesca • Wellford
Baldock • Barbour • Barry • Bowman • Carman • Carter • Curran • Davis • Dorsey • Feldman • Fish • Flaum • Gibbons • Hallanan • Harris • Hinojosa • Hull • Hupp • Katz • Keenan • Kelly • Kram • Laffitte • Limbaugh, Sr. • Limbaugh, Sr. • Milburn • Nesbitt • Nevas • O'Neill • Rymer • Sharp • Starr • Vinson • Vukasin • Wexler •Woods
Barker • Beezer • Biggers • Billings • Bissell • Boyle • Brewster • Browning • DiCarlo • Duhe • Garcia • George • Hall • Hargrove • Higgins • Hill • Holland • Ideman • Jarvis • Keller • Leavy • Lee • Legge • Leisure • Little • Livaudais • Longobardi • McKibben • Milburn • Newman • Norgle • Prado • Rea • Rosenblatt • Rovner • Scirica • Smith, Jr. • Sneeden • Stotler • Suhrheinrich • Torruella • Wiggins • Wilkinson
Alley • Altimari • Anderson • Aquilino • Archer • Arnold • Baldock • Batchelder • Battey • Broomfield • Brown • Brown • Brunetti • Buckley • Cobb • Conmy • Cowen • Davidson • Dimmick • Duff • Easterbrook • Edgar • Farnan • Fernandez • Fitzpatrick • Fuste • Greene • Gunn • Guy • Hall • Hilton • Holderman • Hughes • Johnson • Jones • Korman • Kozinski • La Plata • Leinenweber • Letts • Lovell • Ludwig • Maloney • Mansmann • Marcus • McDonald • Meredith • Miller • Mills • Miner • Motz • Nelson • Noonan • Porfilio • Revercomb • Rhoades • Ripple • Rodriguez • Rosenbaum • Roth • Ryan • Sam • Scott • Sentelle • Silberman • Sporkin • Stanton • Stapleton • Strand • Strom • Tacha • Tevrizian • Thompson • Todd • Tsoucalas • Walker • Walter • Weber • Williams • Wilson • Wingate • Wolf • Wollman • Young • Zloch
Anderson • Boggs • Bryan • Cedarbaum • Cholakis • Conway • Davies • Dearie • Dubina • Duggan • Edmondson • Fawsett • Fitzwater • Gex • Graham • Hackett • Hansen • Henderson • Hittner • Howard • Jensen • Kay • Kleinfeld • Kosik • Lagueux • Lechner • Magill • Mahoney • Manion • McAvoy • McQuade • Norris • O'Scannlain • Rehnquist • Ryskamp • Scalia • Selya • Simpson • Smalkin • Spencer • Stiehl • Wilkins • Williams • Woodlock • Zatkoff
Alesia • Beam • Bell • Conboy • Cowen • Cummings • Daronco • Doty • Dwyer • Ebel • Ellis • Gadola • Gawthrop • Greenberg • Harrington • Howard • Hoyt • Hutchinson • Kanne • Kelly • Larimer • Leavy • Lew • Marsh • Mayer • McKinney • Michel • Mukasey • Musgrave • Niemeyer • Parker • Phillips • Politan • Pro • Raggi • Reasoner • Reed • Scirica • Sentelle • Smith • Smith • Stadtmueller • Standish • Tinder • Torres • Trott • Turner • Van Antwerpen • Voorhees • Webb • Whipple • Wolin • Wolle • Wood • Zagel
Arcara • Babcock • Brorby • Butler • Cambridge • Camp • Conlon • Cox • Dubois • Duhe • Ezra • Forester • Friedman • Garza • Hutton • Jordan • Kennedy • Lake • Lamberth • Lifland • Lozano • Marovich • Nygaard • Patterson • Schell • Smith • Smith • Tilley • Waldman • Zilly