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Morning headlines: Thursday, December 8, 2011

An attorney for Rod Blagojevich says he will appeal the 14 year prison term handed to the former Gov. on Wednesday.

Blagojevich plans to keep fighting

Rod Blagojevich has just over two months of freedom before he's scheduled to begin a 14-year prison term. But the ex-governor and his lawyers plan to keep fighting.  

After Judge James Zagel handed down the sentence, and the public was ushered out of the courtroom, more than an hour passed before the ex-governor, his wife and his lawyers appeared in the lobby of the court building.

Blagojevich attorney Aaron Goldstein said there was a lot of silence. He said the legal team will appeal the governor's sentence, and his conviction. That's a process Goldstein says could take years, and one Blagojevich referenced, somewhat, when he stood before TV cameras in the lobby.

"Patti and I - and especially me - this is a time to be strong," said Blagojevich. "This is a time to fight through adversity."

Blagojevich has to turn himself in by February 16th.

Federal appeals court agrees to look at whether Manchester can enforce funeral protest ordinance

The full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis will meet January 9th to reconsider a three-judge panel's October ruling in favor of members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka. In the now-vacated ruling, the panel upheld a district court ruling, saying peaceful protests near funerals are protected by the First Amendment. Church members claim soldiers' deaths in overseas wars are God's punishment for American tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

Last year, a federal judge in Kansas City struck down Missouri's funeral protest statute as unconstitutional and an appeal has been filed to the 8th Circuit. A ruling in the 6th Circuit in Ohio favored the protest laws.

Judge throws out Republican challenge to Ill. legislative district map

A panel of federal judges in Chicago on Wednesday dismissed the suit filed by top Illinois Republicans. House Republican leader Tom Cross and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno sued because they contend the Democrat-drawn map is unfair to minority groups and GOP voters. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new map into law in June.

Drawing a new legislative district map is an exercise the state goes through every 10 years after a census. Democrats were in charge because they control the General Assembly and the governor's office. Republicans are reviewing their options and whether to appeal.

A Republican challenge to the state's new congressional districts map is still pending.

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