November 9, 2012
Does Prez Obama's re-election make broader use of clemency power more or less likely?
The question in the title of this post reflect my nagging concern that President Obama, now that he has four more years in his current job and thus now more reasons to avoid using his political capital on criminal justice issues, will not begin to use his clemency powers more robustly anytime soon. As regular readers know, Prez Obama has been historically stingy in his use of his clemency powers during his first term (details here and here). But, with a re-election vote always on the horizon during his first term, the disinclination to risk getting political flack from the tough-on-crime crowd perhaps provided an understandable (if not justifiable) reason for such little use of this historically important and constitutionally significant presidential power.
Now, of course, Prez Obama no longer has to think about his own re-election. Nevertheless, I fear that the desuetude marking his first-term treatment of the clemency power could become a habit. Had Obama lost his re-election bid, he would have only two months to complete his presidential legacy and a spate of clemency grants might be anticipated to be part of his finishing act. But now he has an extra four years and lots of other political and practical concerns with a second term approaching; it seems quite possible (and I fear likely) that clemency grants (as well as broader and much needed clemency reform) will now remain a back-burner matter for this President.
I hope I am wrong, and perhaps commentors can give me reasons to not feel too pessimistic on this front.
Related recent posts concerning federal clemency practices:
- "Obama Has Granted Clemency More Rarely Than Any Modern President"
- Press and pressure prompting talk of clemency reforms in White House
- "Presidential Pardons Heavily Favor Whites"
- Investigation reveals (shockingly?!?!) that politicians and politics impact federal pardons
- DOJ audit of federal clemency process with sound and fury signifying nothing
- Updated numbers on President Obama's disgraceful clemency record
- Noting President Obama's (still) stingy clemency record
- ProPublica reveals more ugliness in federal clemency process
- Public policy groups urge Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate US Pardon Attorney Office
- Commentary calls for "cleaning house" at DOJ's Office of the Pardon Attorney
- "Commutation Recipients Ask for OPA Investigation"
- "15 Law Professors Call on Senate to Investigate Office of U.S. Pardon Attorney"
November 9, 2012 at 01:37 PM | Permalink
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"I hope I am wrong, and perhaps commentors can give me reasons to not feel too pessimistic on this front."
You're not wrong. Sorry. There will be some pardons around the Christmas season, but not nearly as many as there would have been if this were his closing act.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 9, 2012 5:06:01 PM
W/o more info to refute it, Bill Otis is correct.
Posted by: Joe | Nov 9, 2012 9:25:37 PM
Your wrong bill. I can almost guarantee there will be at least one pardon in the next few weeks...the anuual turkey! kind of a professional courtsey that is.
Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 9, 2012 10:14:50 PM
I think you've nailed it. On the other hand, I'm afraid there will be capital punishment for a turkey in the Otis household, what with my being a bloodluster and a Neanderthal and all. Those cranberries aren't going to fare too well either.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 10, 2012 2:55:37 AM