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June 13, 2005

More insights on the recent Bush pardons

Margaret Colgate Love, who served for twenty years in the US Department of Justice, including seven as US Pardon Attorney under the first President Bush and President Clinton, wrote to me following up on this recent post about President Bush's pardons last week.  Here are her informed insights:

The most recent pardon grants from President Bush have been criticized, on this blog and elsewhere, as random and meaningless.  But the very fact that this President has begun issuing pardons on a fairly regular basis is encouraging. In the past six months he has issued a pardon warrant on four separate occasions, which in terms of frequency begins to resemble the regular pardoning practices of modern presidents prior to the Reagan Administration. The 44 pardons and two commutations he has issued to date put him not too far off President Clinton's pace at the halfway-point in his tenure (53 pardons and 3 commutations by the end of 1997).

On the other hand, the number of grants on each warrant (usually between four and seven) is comparatively small, oddly so considering the number of pardon applications that are awaiting action (now over 900).  And, most of President Bush's pardons to date have gone to people whose offenses were very minor (few resulted in any prison time) and dated (most took place more than 15 years ago). Only one involves a drug conviction.

Perhaps most significant for your audience, there is no indication that this president plans to use his pardon power in any systematic fashion to cut short prison sentences: the beneficiaries of his only two commutations were both old and sick and within six months of release in the ordinary course.  His only grant that could even remotely be regarded as controversial was the death-bed pardon in February of 2004 to David McCall, a well-connected Texas politician who was convicted of bank fraud in 1997. 

The general impression conveyed is of an executive who is beginning to understand the importance of regularity in the pardon process, but is still playing it safe in every respect.

The sluggish pace of Bush's grants has evidently not deterred pardon applicants: the most recent statistics issued by the Pardon Attorney's office show that the number of pardon applications has increased each year since President Bush took office, and may top 300 this year.  This is not surprising since pardon is the only way that federal offenders can avoid or mitigate many collateral penalties and disqualifications.  On the other hand, the number of commutation applications has stayed fairly steady at between 850 and 1000 each year, and there is as yet no indication that there will be a significant number of commutation applications from prisoners seeking retroactive application, through the pardon power, of the Booker holding.

June 13, 2005 at 12:55 AM | Permalink

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For those interested in the recent pardons granted by President Bush (see earlier post here), Doug Berman has posted some very interesting comments by Margaret Love on the Sentencing Law [Read More]

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Comments

could you please email me and let me know who the attorney or attorneys were for the 14 people who President Bush Pardon since he has been in office particular for the Drug cases. Thank you

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB