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April 19, 2006

Another uninspired round of Bush pardons

As detailed in this AP story, President Bush has granted a new set of executive pardons.  Some details about the eleven individuals receiving the pardons and their crimes and sentences are available in the story, which also notes that now "Bush has issued 82 pardons and sentence commutations during 63 months in office, mainly to allow people who committed relatively minor offenses and served their sentences long ago to clear their names."

I have done a lot of coverage of Bush's pardon practices, some of which can be found in the links below:

UPDATE: 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, had this to say about the latest round of GWB pardons:

Federal pardons continue to dribble out of the White House, at fairly regular intervals but at a snail's pace.  The latest round of grants are predictably unexceptionable: none of the offenses is particularly serious (the longest prison term was three years) and most are quited dated.

This makes 80 pardons that Bush has granted in five years -- which may seem like quite a lot until you consider that over a thousand pardon applications have been filed during his presidency, and over 900 pardon cases remain to be acted upon.  He has commuted only two sentences (these two token grants were both to old sick people within six months of release in the ordinary course), and has received 4,552 applications.

It will be interesting to see, as the end of his term approaches, whether he will begin to pick up the pace a bit. If he doesn't, he will face an enormous backlog of cases at the end of his term, which he will either have to deny (sending his grant rate into the cellar) or leave for his successor (like Clinton did). I understand that the Bush administration did not appreciate inheriting President Clinton's unfinished business (923 undecided pardon cases and over two thousand commutation cases), but it appears that Bush is on track to leave his successor with the same heap of undecided cases.

It has been a long time since the federal pardon program was administered in a responsible way -- indeed since President Bush's father's tenure.  One would have hoped that President Bush had learned from the fiasco at the end of the Clinton administration that a president ignores at his peril what President Reagan's White House Counsel Fred Fielding called "the housekeeping business of the presidency."  If he were to initiate now a serious regime of pardoning, making 15 to 20 grants every couple of months and denying cases that are not meritorious, he could both arrive at the end of his term with a reasonable pardoning record and leave his successor a tidy room.

The commutation cases are of course another matter -- I continue to hope that he will make a few grants in some of the sympathetic cases that I know are in the system, at least to signal his humanity if not encourage some reform in the legal system.

MORE: T Chris at TalkLeft adds some additional commentary here.

April 19, 2006 at 02:59 PM | Permalink


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» Bush Makes Stingy Use of Pardon Power from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
by TChris President Bush has been miserly in the exercise of his pardon power. Bush has issued 82 pardons and sentence commutations during 63 months in office, mainly to allow people who committed relatively minor offenses and served their sentences... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 19, 2006 9:57:35 PM


Does anyone out there have good numbers on how many commutations Bush has issued so far and what they were for? These are far more relevant that pardons of people who have already been released.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Apr 19, 2006 3:05:59 PM

Yet another post complaining about the President's use of his pardon power *Sigh* It's becoming almost as tiring as the constant whining about the death penalty.

Bush is being careful. Far better to use the pardon power infrequently than to use it to help out your buddies.

Posted by: Clarence | Apr 19, 2006 3:44:26 PM


Pardon's for "white collar" criminals only! Is that not what he currently uses the pardon power for?

Yeah, *sigh* so easy to take the moral high ground when the process is of no consequence to your pampered life.

Posted by: Paul | Jan 12, 2007 3:41:32 PM

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