Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DOJ McJustice: "Not So Fast, Robertson!"

We are reminded of an old Army joke ... Everyone is quite concerned to learn that Private Robertson's mother, back home, has died. No one is sure how to break the news to him, because Robertson is huge, very emotional and prone to violence. The new Drill Instructor Schwartz steps up and says, "I'll take care of it. Don't worry about it. I'm all over it." The next morning, Schwartz yells his frightened men into line and barks at them, "If you are planning to visit your mom, at home, this Mother's Day, take one step forward! NOW!" As soldiers are stumbling over each other in confusion and stepping forward in great haste, Schwartz yells, "Not so fast, Robertson!"

In response to the recent news that the Office of the Pardon Attorney (Department of Justice) has taken to the policy of informing individuals that their pardon applications have been rejected by e-mail, a reader has offered (as a justification / rationalization), "there is no good way to receive this news."


And there is certainly no good way to inform a mother that her child has been slain in battle. But, somehow, a tweet with a frowny face seems just a tad bit less than desirable or, dare we say, inappropriate. Indeed to focus on - and summarily dismiss - the presumed emotional reaction of the recipients of DOJ official rejection e-mails is both wrong-headed and disturbing.

The recent e-mail rejection of 2,738 applications for pardons and commutations of sentence is, of course, further evidence of what is already well known. The Office of the Pardon Attorney is the place where clemency applications go to die. It is a place that strongly resembles the manner in which sociologists have long described trial courts of limited jurisdiction in the states - where case loads are large and there is a heavy presumption of guilt. "Link sausage" justice they call it. It's all about establishing guilt, moving 'em through, and keeping them moving.

Between President Obama, Attorney General Holder and the U.S. Pardon Attorney, there isn't anything remotely similar to a substantive "clemency program." With almost 4,000 applications denied and only 17 grants, there is very little room to explore the inner workings of these gears. There is no mystery re the heavy presumption of unworthiness. Woodrow Wilson granted more pardons in a single month, just after he had a massive debilitating stroke, than the perfectly healthy President Obama has granted in 850 plus days! It would seem that - as others have suggested - it is time to move the institutional apparatus related to the pardon power out of the Department of Justice to some place (like the Executive Office of the President) where the power could be treated more seriously, less offensively.


Anonymous said...

I feel for those who have waited so long and that is how it ended for them. Bless all of those who have lived a better life and tried for a pardon.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, sending the notice via email does reduce costs. It is cheaper than sending a letter via mail. And the person will get an email faster than paper mail.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

EDITOR-I am guessing there isn't anyone in the world who does not assume this is a major part of the justification, but, sadly, the point remains the same. Tweeting parents re their dead children would be pretty darn quick too! Or maybe we should just sent them an IM? While we are at it, those pesky FBI background investigations into the backgrounds of pardon applicants are probably pretty costly too. Hmmm ...

JorgXMcKie said...

Are you suggesting that to improve the process Obama should have a massive stroke? do you want a visit from the Secret Service? ;->=

Seriously, I'd like to see a brief [if possible] discussion from you as to what the standards should be or might usefully be for both or either pardons and grants of clemency. You needn't justify your stance, just present it.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

EDITOR-Well, JorgXMcKie,I have to admit, that is certainly one possibly wildly insane "interpretation" of what I have said. But I feel comfortable that the Secret Service would have a greater problem with you than I :-)

I think all of the following should be carefully considered: 1) Post-conviction conduct, character, and reputation 2) Seriousness and relative recentness of the offense 3) Acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement 4)Need for relief 5)Official recommendations and reports.

How about you?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Ruckman
You are correct in your statement of what should be considered in granting a pardon. I can tell you first hand that all these things are being considered in my review and in great detail. There has always been a large back log from President to President. I think this is an effort to clear it up. I am still under consideration and can say that which ever way it goes I was given a fair review. It is hard to figure out exactly what the criteria is for granting a pardon.

One has to keep in mind that when we broke the law we lost a lot that we will never get back. We still have the best system of government and justice anywhere in the world.

Another Anonymous said...

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

I think all of the following should be carefully considered: 1) Post-conviction conduct, character, and reputation 2) Seriousness and relative recentness of the offense 3) Acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement 4)Need for relief 5)Official recommendations and reports.


Mr Ruckman,

The only one I personally have a problem with... 4) Need for relief

That is very speculative. I believe a person's desire to be free from the disabilities a federal felony conviction puts on them, is enough "need for relief". As soon as a person must justify a reason why they "need" relief, the process becomes bias. Then you have someone deciding what is a good reason for relief based on bias, instead of more clear cut reasons, such as 1,2,3, & 5.

I believe, being an American & wanting to be "free" again without any disabilities is reason enough.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

ANONYMOUS-Your suggestion that backlogs are somehow a traditional feature of exchanged presidencies is empirically false. It is rather a particular feature of more recent, negligent administrations. See chart here.

I am not so sure I agree with your more general idea that, when a person breaks the law, they are eternally punished. I mean, I am familiar with that notion as a matter of theology, but not as a matter of American criminal justice.

It would be interesting to see, however, if federal judges and juries would also vote for lifetime bans on the enjoyment of civil rights every time they handed down a sentence.


John Balazs said...

Anyone have any idea whether and how many of commutation denials were crack cocaine FSA based petitions?

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

EDITOR-Apologies to readers! I have accidentally erased several comments which I had intended to publish. Have to be more careful which buttons I push. Again, very sorry!

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