Monday, June 12, 2017

Larkin: Reform Clemency NOW !

At the Washington Times, Paul Larkin notes what all careful observers of the pardon power know, "the clemency process no longer works as well as the Framers hoped." Presidents have granted clemency "too infrequently" and President Trump can "remedy that shortcoming by making clemency decisions on a regular basis." Says Larkin, Trump should:
... set aside time three or four weekends each year to consider clemency petitions and announce his decisions straight away. That would allow him to avoid the impression that presidents pardon more turkeys than people. 
Trump should return clemency "to its intended use: to express forgiveness on the nation’s behalf and wipe the slate clean for the average person, rather than a crony or celebrity, who has admitted his wrongdoing and turned his life around."

But Larkin also recommends other changes. Trump "should transfer the clemency process from the Justice Department to a new clemency office in the White House" To which we say, NO DOUBT. The Office of the Pardon Attorney is just about as useless as any arm of the bloated federal bureaucracy. Its primary expertise rests in delayed summary denials of applications en masse and exempting itself from the requirements of FOIA. Additionally, says Larkin, the current weight of the opinion of the deputy attorney general is misplaced:
The deputy attorney general supervises the criminal prosecutions brought by every U.S. attorney’s office and the criminal sections of the Justice Department. He therefore labors under an actual or apparent conflict of interest when it comes to clemency. He might be unlikely to look neutrally and dispassionately on an offender’s claim that he should never have been charged with a crime; that he is innocent; that there was a prejudicial error in his case; that his sentence was unduly severe; or that he should be forgiven because he is a changed man. In any other decision-making process, a neutral party would play the role now performed by the department. The department should be free to offer a recommendation, of course, but it should not be able to strangle a reasonable application in the cradle. The president needs unbiased recommendations, and the nation is entitled to think that he gets them. 
So, Larkin says the vice president should become "the principal clemency adviser." See full editorial here.

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