Friday, March 16, 2012

Zorn: The Illinois 3,000

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune says that when ever he "felt a surge of pity rising for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich as he headed off to federal prison," he "snapped out of it" by reminding himself of the "Illinois 3,000." Those who follow this blog are aware of the fact that that is just about the number of petitions for pardons and commutations of sentence that Blagojevich left behind when he was arrested.

Zorn reports Blagojevich denied 93 percent of the 1,250 requests that he did bother to act on (over almost six years). A lawyer sued Blagojevich in federal on behalf of a group of petitioners who had waited more than four years for an up or down decision on their applications. Writes Zorn
The plaintiffs won the first round: State law “explicitly and unequivocally requires that some decision shall be made,” found Federal Judge Joan B. Gottschall in early 2008. “The necessary implication of the state’s imperative language is that the decision be made within a reasonable period of time.” The state, in defense of the governor’s right to dawdle and dither and duck to his heart’s content, won on appeal. 
Pat Quinn announced his intention to reduce the backlog and has acted on 1,735 petitions (denying 62 percent." The backlog, however, is at 2,553. Zorn suggests:
He needs a better system if he wants to catch up - for instance, one in which he automatically accepts the advice of the Prisoner Review Board on old, non-violent or otherwise minor cases, and focuses the attention of his office on more significant or controversial cases.
See full editorial here.

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