Thursday, May 5, 2011

On the Web: Office of the Pardon Attorney

The Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA), in the Department of Justice (DOJ), is now featured in a newly formatted world wide web page (here). The page informs its readers that the OPA "assists" the President in the exercise of executive clemency by preparing "the Department's recommendation to the President for final disposition of each application."

Everything else about the page looks pretty much the same (as it was in the old format), although the profile of the current U.S. Pardon Attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers seems a little more prominent. Rodgers, a decorated Marine veteran, has quite an impressive resume, which includes experience as defense counsel, prosecutor, judge, instructor of trial advocacy and Director of the Drug Intelligence Unit of the Criminal Division of the DOJ.

What is most notable about the description is the complete absence of any information that explains or suggests that Mr. Rodgers has any particular interest in matters related to federal executive clemency. Indeed, the description which allows us to "meet" him says nothing at all about his particular views and/or interests re clemency. Rodgers has, apparently, never written anything on the topic. When stories break regarding the pardon power of the president, one does not encounter his name in the National media. The Washington Post made multiple attempts to gain insight into his views on clemency when he first came to the Office, but Rodgers declined to be interviewed.

It seems the most notable aspect of Rodgers' attachment to the Office of the Pardon Attorney can be seen in aggregate statistics since the time of his arrival (April 2008). Upon Rodgers' arrival, a record number of requests for commutation of sentence were denied. Well over 4,000 have been denied since. In addition, 838 requests for pardons have been denied. 1,504 requests for pardons and commutations of sentence have also been "closed without presidential action."

Meanwhile, a mere 85 pardons and 7 commutations of sentence have been granted since Rodgers took office three years ago. Almost all of those were granted in the final months of the administration of George W. Bush - who appointed Rodgers to the OPA when the former U.S. Pardon Attorney had to step down as a result of an investigation which uncovered controversial remarks about the race and ethnicity of a pardon applicant.


Anonymous said...

Doubtful there will be any additional pardons until AFTER the election Nov 2012. The issue is too controversial for the administration. He isnt going to give any additional ammo to his detractors.

The fact that the President appeared pro-clemency before being elected, is irrelevant. It's back to campaign mode. Those in wait... will continue to wait.

Great reason why, the office of the Pardon Attorney should have the power to grant pardons itself. It wouldnt hurt the president/s at all. The POTUS could still issue, or veto ones he wanted, or didnt approve of. Although, clemency would be more routine and, not nearly the toxic issue it is, were this to happen.

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

EDITOR-I am not sure I agree with that. I would probably be more inclined to guess that, at a minimum, some more December pardons will land, a handful, mostly old offenses, probably not very serious. Although I am not an elections and campaigns expert, I expect Obama will be re-elected. Then, well, it might get very interesting. Who knows, maybe he will commute sentences in a systematic fashion and provide a serious demonstration as to how the pardon power should be used. Best,

Anonymous said...

Ronald Reagan was the last president to regularly execute clemency powers.

After an initial token offering (two years in roughly), neither Bill Clinton, or George W. offered another pardon until AFTER they were re-elected.

I was basing my opinion on what President Obama will do, on recent history. I think the issue is too politically toxic these days.

H.W. Bush, Reagan, & their predecessors didn't have the internet to put issues like pardons in everyone's mind the instant they are granted. It becomes news instantly. In my opinion, making it much less routine (for those deserving), than in prior time periods.

I doubt we'll ever see executive clemency with the "generosity" of previous administrations, unless the system is changed. It has become a burden to Presidents due to the political backlash in the world of instant information that we now live.

ps. I hope Im wrong, & you are right Mr. Ruckman. Im sure many are deserving.

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