Monday, March 28, 2016

Our Two Cents: Time for Change!

Gregory Korte's fine reporting in USA Today prompts us to toss in our two cents:

The apparatus for processing clemency applications needs to be removed from the plodding, obstructionist hands of nameless, faceless, career prosecutors in the Department of Justice (DOJ) whose decision making is ridiculously without transparency and, consequently, well beyond any reasonable degree of accountability. The process has not always been in DOJ. It does not need to remain there any longer. This sad party needs to come to an end. The President should move the clemency apparatus out of DOJ and into the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Then - following the recommendations of the political scientists and the Progressive movement in the early 1900s, as well as the example of most of the American states - create a pardons commission. Pardoning should be systematic and regular, not seemingly random and last-minute, a mere after-thought.

From: "Preparing the Pardon Power for the 21st Century," forthcoming, University of St, Thomas School of Law Law Journal:

In 1919, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s Annual Report argued that his duties and responsibilities had “increased so greatly” that it became “practically impossible” to give clemency applications “the attention and thought” that they required.[1] Palmer thus proposed the creation of a three-member Pardon and Parole Board that would make recommendations to the president.[2] Three years later, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to President Harding calling for the creation of a “new agency” to process clemency applications. According to the Washington Post, the organization thought the Department of Justice was “unable” to “go into” cases in a proper manner because of its “organization,” its “other many duties” and the dominant role of federal attorneys who conducted the prosecution.[3] It is so unfortunate that reform minded persons did not win the day on these fronts a long, long time ago.

[1] Annual Report of the Attorney General, Dec. 8, 1919, 4.
[2] Id.
[3] Seeks New Pardon Agency, WASHINGTON POST, Apr. 3, 1922, p. 6.

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