Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DOJ Audit of OPA

See "Audit of the Department of Justice Processing of Clemency Petitions." U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Audit Division, Audit Report 11-45, September 2011.

This Report finds that there was a time when the pardon power of the president was not in complete atrophy, but, in recent years very few pardons and commutations of sentence have been granted. At the same time, the number of petitions has increased and the number of unaddressed petitions in the Office of the Pardon Attorney (backlog) has increased as well.

In the past three years, a record number of clemency applications (well over 6,000) have denied - more than the number denied in the previous 13 years combined! As a result, some have suspected that applications have not been given serious review. Nonetheless, the Report does conclude that the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) - while having "few written polices and procedures for processing clemency applications" - utilizes "a reasonable approach" in its investigation of the "merits" of clemency applications and to "develop its recommendations." It also notes that the current pardon attorney has "increased the number of unpaid law student interns" in his office and brought the OPA support staff to six attorneys.

The Report also finds that, in the period 2005 to 2010, on average, it took almost two years to process the clemency petitions that resulted in positive grants. The figure for pardons is 3.37 years and 1.57 years for commutations of sentence (the Obama administration, by our data, has averaged 4.2 years for pardons). But "a significant cause" of delay in processing applications was due to the fact that "the entities receiving referrals [from the OPA] did not always respond [within] the period of time required by the entities' internal guidelines or the period of time requested by the OPA." These "entities" would include: the ATF, BOP Headquarters and Wardens, the DEA, the FBI, United State's Attorney's Offices, Antitrust Division, Civil Division, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Division and the Tax Division.

The BOP has an established time frame of 15 days, but averaged 105 days. The United State's Attorney's Offices have a time frame of 30 days, but averaged 153. The established time frame for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division and Criminal Division is 30 days. But, they averaged 263 days and 489 days respectively.

What the hand-wringing analysis of paper-pushing fails to recognize is the fact that the final decision is the president's and 1 out of every 2 pardons granted over the last 39 years has been granted in a single month, December. Why? This Report sheds no light on the matter at all, at least not directly, or intentionally. It only notes that petitions were "at the White House," on average, for 9.4 months, before a decision was made.

Another thing missing from the Report is any information whatsoever on the length of time between the commission of offenses, and executive clemency. We know that, for the Obama administration, on average, there is a 26.3 year gap between clemency and the time of the offense. Is this gap representative of the pool of rejected applications? or substantially different?

Finally, for all of its chat about "delay" and processing applications in a "timely" fashion, this Report is conspicuous for the complete absence of a suggestion of an ideal mark, or even an estimation, within which clemency applications should be addressed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I never thought the process would take as long as it does. It appears the application is always moving forward. Had no idea some of the hold up is waiting for other Agencies to respond. Can only hope I am getting close to an answer. Every day I do not get a no, I am convinced that I am getting closer to a yes. Only thing that would make me quit would be a pardon for Micheal Vick.

blogger templates | Make Money Online