Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Preparing the Pardon Power for the 21st Century

The Editor's article, "Preparing the Pardon Power for the 21st Century," which appears in the most recent issue of the University of St. Thomas's Law Journal is available to readers online, free, in the form of a .pdf file here.

Echoing the voices of political scientists from the past and some of the finest minds focusing on the topic today, the piece calls for 1) relocation of the apparatus that processes clemency applications from the basement of the Department of Justice into the Executive Office of the President 2) adjustment of the tenure of the U.S. Pardon Attorney to alignment with the coming and going of each president 3) the production, tracking and publication of clemency data consistent with basic notions of transparency and the ability to assess the quality of decision making as well as 4) a revamp of the Annual Report of the Attorney General that would return that publication to the level of professionalism and responsibility enjoyed until the 1930s.

It is hoped that these reforms would result in 1) more pardoning 2) more regular pardoning 3) and the exercise of group pardons, based on classification schemes.

The piece ends with this observation:
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. Palmer thus proposed the creation of a three member Pardon and Parole Board that would make recommendations to the president. 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. It is so unfortunate that reform-minded persons did not win the day on these fronts a long, long time ago.
See full article here.

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