Sunday, November 7, 2010

Osler on Pardons, Obama and the Constitution

Former federal prosecutor and law professor Mark Osler has a piece in today's Dallas Morning News. regarding President Obama's "sorry record" in the matter of pardons. To date, Obama has not granted a single pardon or commutations of sentence and is among the slowest presidents in history to do so. Meanwhile, the Office of the Pardon Attorney (in the Department of Justice) has denied record numbers of applications.

Osler argues Obama's neglect of the power "undermines not only an important constitutional mechanism, but the values that underlay it" and says we should "expect more from a constitutional law professor who becomes president." He notes:
A president who lets his tools lay untouched in the box at a time when they are needed is simply not practicing the craft of leadership ... Mercy to those unfairly treated is an idea deeply engrained in the American consciousness and spirit, like the concepts of liberty and restraint. The framers did not lightly place the unchecked power of the pardon in the president's hands, because that power can easily be abused (as it sometimes has been). Still, they granted the executive that power with the expectation that from time to time rough edges in criminal law sometimes would have to be shaved off.
Osler also suggests there is "reason to hope" that Obama will discover the pardon power (for more than turkeys) "now that the elections are over."  We'll see! See full editorial here.

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