Friday, September 4, 2015

More on the O.P.A.

In a previous post we reported on commentary made by a former U.S. pardon attorney before a gathering at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Margaret Colgate Love served in that position during the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton when the pardon process just about reached an all-time low in terms of functionality and relevance. Bush exercised clemency only 77 times in four years (making him one of the least merciful presidents in history). Almost half of Bush's grants came in the last month of the term. Clinton pardoned even less, in his first term (56 times), but also left the White House with a flurry of last-minutes pardons, many of which were wildly controversial.

Love told her audience that "the system for reviewing cases and for getting cases, and the kinds of considerations that we brought to bear in the Department of Justice were really pretty random." She also added that "the degree of secrecy and randomness and inefficiency [in the present system] is extraordinary."

In a piece by Slate that is out today, Love sheds additional light on her experience. The piece claims Love "encountered [an] unmerciful tendency" in the Justice Department and that she "felt pressure to recommend fewer pardons than she was naturally inclined to." Said Love,
“I knew what the boss wanted, and wasn't about to send him a lot of reports he would only throw back at me ... That said, I tried to push my agenda (of getting the president to make more grants) as much as I could.”
The "boss" is not identified but, interestingly, it reminded us of similar comments by the Deputy Attorney General when Love served, Eric Holder, who said, back in 2001:
First, I think one thing ought to be made clear. The Deputy Attorney General, the Pardon Attorney of the Justice Department, do not decide pardon requests. We make recommendations to the President where the decision is ultimately made. There have been times when we have made, I have made recommendations to the President in favor of a pardon request that was not granted.
 See full piece at Slate here.

1 comment:

Mista Whiskas said...

This blog is an incredible resource, and your erudition and hard work on the subject shines through.

Having said that, I think the thing that concerns one the most about the pardon power is that it was placed in a political branch, and as such it is exercised with all the lack of principle and craven appeal to nakedly political interests we've sadly grown to expect there. The power is meant to be used to protect the politically unpopular and powerless, but of course there's little political gain in that, so it residing in a political office it sits there, little and ill used.

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