Rescuing The Pardon Power 

  Rescuing The Pardon Power 

Posted by FoM on January 24, 2001 at 23:04:08 PT
By Margaret Colgate Love 
Source: Washington Post 

Bill Clinton's final pardons were like the man himself: flamboyant and complex and scandalous. Like earlier Clinton cliffhangers, they were apparently the product of an all-night war-room exercise personally commanded by the president. Many were never submitted for the Justice Department review but came in over the transom as faits accomplis. 
Some of the recipients whose cases were handled outside the normal process had made generous campaign contributions to the Democrats or otherwise had connections to Washington insiders.All of this is, of course, constitutionally permissible, but that doesn't make it the right or responsible thing to do. For all he repeatedly asked us to forgive him, President Clinton seemed uninterested in his own official obligation to forgive. And so perhaps it is no wonder that he saved the granting of pardons until the final hours, as if to confirm his concept of pardon as payback or payoff.The true scandal lies not so much in the pardon grants themselves as in the departing president's evident disdain for the system and his easy willingness to compromise a public trust.The good news is that these final Clinton pardons may give a much-needed boost to efforts to change our savage and unyielding laws on sentencing for drug offenses. Each of the 21 relatively inconsequential drug offenders granted early release from prison last Saturday had served at least six years in prison. Each had been a minor player in a large conspiracy, and none was implicated in any violent conduct.But the 21 drug sentences commuted on Jan. 20 are only the tip of a great iceberg of unfairness. The Justice Department itself acknowledged as much in a 1993 study showing that thousands of low-level nonviolent drug offenders are serving unnecessarily lengthy no-parole prison terms. After this we should no longer be able to turn away from our responsibility to seek out and give relief to similarly situated individuals.New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, has taken the first steps in this area by proposing reform of the harsh Rockefeller drug laws; the changes would apply retroactively to people already in prison. It may be that only the Republicans can "go to China" and declare a truce in the war on drugs.There is another piece of good news to be found in Clinton's exit lines: The evident cronyism and irregularity of the final pardons will likely provoke an overhaul of the way the pardon power is administered in the White House and the Justice Department. This will be necessary if pardon is once again to carry out the mercy-dispensing and policy-shaping functions the Framers of the Constitution envisioned for it.First, the president should decide cases on a regular basis when he can be held properly accountable for his actions, not wait until holidays or the end of his term. Until quite recently presidents had been shielded from public criticism by the frequency and generosity with which they acted on pardon applications. Presidential pardons were freely available to ordinary people convicted of garden-variety crimes, who had been punished enough and wished to be forgiven. In the past 20 years, however, pardons have become so infrequent that each new grant is regarded with suspicion and subjected to intense scrutiny, no matter how apparently innocuous. Moreover, the process ought to be a confidential one. Vetting pardon cases in the press tends to bring their progress to a standstill, as the recent example of the Milken case shows. A host of questions can arise that are easier to answer after the fact, and unexpected opposition can be mustered. The Framers would not have favored a plebiscite even in this context.It would also help to strengthen the attorney general's role in pardons. For more than 100 years the president relied exclusively on the attorney general for advice in pardon matters, and this afforded him the combined perspective of law enforcement official and political counselor. The job of the Justice Department's pardon attorney was to reflect this dual perspective, and not simply the views of the prosecutors. More recently, however, the pardon process has been conducted largely through the deputy attorney general, which in practice has given prosecutors a great deal of influence over pardon decisions. This is probably why the Clinton White House chose to seek advice elsewhere this time. Giving the attorney general exclusive responsibility for recommending pardons would be a step back in the right direction, and would help underscore the relative importance of justice and politics in pardon decision-making.Finally, pardoning provides a splendid bully pulpit, giving the president an opportunity to speak about all sorts of criminal justice issues in the context of a particular situation. In addition to policy issues such as the mandatory deportation of criminal aliens and the mitigating effect of domestic abuse, pardons can speak to the importance of rehabilitation and reconciliation in the criminal justice system, and the public role of redemption and forgiveness.If President Bush is willing to use the pardon power early and often, he will find it useful in advancing his criminal law agenda. Through courageous and creative use of the power he can signal the need for changes in the law, set an example for discretionary decision-making by his subordinates, and shore up public confidence in the overall morality of the justice system.The writer was pardon attorney in the Justice Department from 1990 to 1997.Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Margaret Colgate LovePublished: Thursday, January 25, 2001 ; Page A19 Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Related Article:Clinton's Last-Day Clemency Benefits 176 News Articles - Pardons

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Comment #2 posted by DdC on January 25, 2001 at 14:06:11 PT
This many products that are safer and nonpolluting means how many jobs and saved American lives? Klintoon was insane and I for one will not forget!   
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Comment #1 posted by DdC on January 25, 2001 at 14:00:11 PT
Klintoon Made a Fine Republican Hypocrite
What can be said about Slick Willy Klintoon? A barking cat? the rights of the Rich's the rights of the korpses pigs. what he knew was wrong, over and over again. By definition making him insane. Liberty and Justice the will of the people for the nonsense of Congress. Shalalagans otherwise would end the suffering of millions as it does the legal 8. Like George McMahon, one of eight patients in the federal medical marijuana program and a founding member of Patients Out of Time. others go to prison 93 years Klintoon sends his henchmen Just Us Thugczars to treat the users, like Klintoon, Gore and Bushit, with compassion like cancer victims, following orders without question these Klintoon puppets perform like seals. in the profits of WoD. the schedule#1 narcotic rope, burlap and canvas has been the top priority while criminalizing 700,000 a year possessing what he possessed. And his dreaded fear of birds. trained bird cat socks wasn't just cute...Until Czarbarry became under fire,retreating into the anals of Klintoonia. now do we come here to praise Ceasar, Nay to bury him. Good ridence to the fascist puppet prez. The flipside on a three dollar bill of new weifd odor internationalist. immoral laws that are unenforceable. For power and profit out of greed and ignorance. crude oil competition before the Nazi's and Duponts polyfiber to the present. These fascist remain in the shadows of the swastika. or Bush, who has his own CIA and family Nazisms. the cannabis medicinal test on several occasions, never brought to question for the ends justifies the means. promoting siblings as paybacks like with Ely Lilly. if Klintoon was bad what will his mentors be?! yes I do know the definition. When korpses take over the control of the people through intertwining in the government.Brainwashing the kids to build their armies. they say its the kids they're concerned with, yet they promote the #1 cause of kids deaths. division and stigmas of racism to promote their profittable scheme to start this war... to continue it... their chemical fossil fuel agenda... fungus, agent orange, DDT whatever, they justify it. Seedshttp://www.rafi.orgIs it the Chemical Manipulation of Human Consciousness? the fascist corporate owned media's... unconstitutional military participation in the drug war The 1st, 4th, 5th and even the right ro vote! Legislation Introduced to Overturn the Bill of Rights. Not counting the last "selection". allowing Secret Searches censoring the internet for talking about hemp. anyone at random to give information incriminating themselves. if this actually had some effect it might leave insanity, at least temporarily. But the fact is 99.28% of the marijuana is rope not dope. Bird habitat not pot. and heroin sell like candybars while State patrol/DEAth/FBI all on the persuit of the dangerous schedule#1 narcotic heathern devil weed....NON-PSYCHOACTIVE ROPE? smoking has very little to do with the war on drugs and the danger is competition. Period. DEA says no medical value because... why do they call it dope? with party puppet Gravis sparechanging oil wells for Californication its not a surprise the Hemp Car gets little press... all of these applications its no wonder the korpses political ties make draconian laws in fossil fuel competition states to keep it off the shelf... many products that are safer and nonpolluting means how many jobs and saved American lives? Yes Klintoon was insane and I for one will not forget!
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