Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New U.S. Pardon Attorney: Zauzmer

NPR reports that a "veteran prosecutor" has been been nominated as the "new leader" of the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Robert Zauzmer has worked in the U.S. Attorney's office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 1990 and is said to have experience "training prosecutors all over the country in how to evaluate prisoners' requests for early release." There are no indications of the impact of that training, or how many prisoners have ever benefited from it, if any. No one knows if he, or anyone in his former office has ever recommended anyone for clemency.

Zauzmer says, however, that there have been "many occasions" over the "years" when he was "troubled" by "sentences of 20, 30 years, life imprisonment imposed on low-level offenders based on mandatory sentencing laws." Of course, President Obama, Eric Holder, Loretta E. Lynch, James Cole and many others with power, in very high places, have been similarly troubled - and deeply - but the result has been less than satisfactory on most fronts.

We don't yet know if Zauzmer was ever "troubled" enough to actually support a clemency application. Nothing in his resume suggests that he has ever had any interest in federal executive clemency previous to today - intellectually or functionally. We see no writings, publications, conference papers, presentations or speeches connecting him to the topic - though we are still looking. We do note that he:
... oversaw the [Justice] Department's response to amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines for crack cocaine offenses, which required the resentencing of thousands of defendants; in that effort, Zauzmer drafted extensive arguments which were used by federal prosecutors nationally to respond to the myriad legal issues which the amendments created.
Zauzmer has not seen fit to comment on the importance of pardons and commutations of sentence in our system of checks and balances and separation of powers, but he does say that prosecutors "are very knowledgeable" about "laws and about the need to do justice," and that they are "passionate" and "dedicated to doing the right thing." It is difficult to understand what selling point all of that is related to.

Zauzmer promises his office will "consider every petition" and "stacks" of them will not be "left'" on his table. Every case will get its "review" and everyone will get a "fair shake."

We have asked whether or not it really matters who serves as the U.S. Pardon Attorney. University of Saint Thomas law professor Mark Osler says, "It's not the person; it's the process, and this administration has to realize that." See story here.

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