Thursday, January 26, 2012

Representative Questions Holder re Pardons

A Legislative Assistant in the Office of Representative Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (Virginia, 3rd District) - member of the House Judiciary Committee - has confirmed that the following questions have been formally submitted to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:

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You testified when you were confirmed that you would study the problems with the clemency advisory process and fix them.

1. Please let us know what you have found and what changes you have made or plan to make.

It has been reported that the pardon attorney no longer assigns commutation cases to staff attorneys, and does not write a recommendation in the large majority of these cases.

2. How does this fulfill the Department's responsibility to advise the president about the merits of each case?

3. Doesn't this make the commutation process meaningless for most applicants?

4. How can the pardon attorney himself conduct a meaningful review of thousands of commutation petitions?

5. Even if most of these should be denied, if no one is really looking at them, how do you know each one is without merit?

We can all agree that no system is perfect. The legal system is no exception. There are mistakes. The Constitution gives the president a role in fixing such mistakes.

6. How does this procedure help the president do that?

7. How does the pardon office identify the rare exception that deserves a closer look? Political support? Media attention? If so, is that the best way — the most fair way — to make these decisions?

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Over at Douglas Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy blog, there is recommendation for an additional question:

8. In light of your Department's advocacy for crack and powder cocaine sentences to be equalized, as well as the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, has any effort been made to give special attention or review to any commutation petitions filed by persons still serving very long crack sentences who may be able to make an especially convincing claim that their continued incarceration is unfair and serves no continued valid purpose?

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