15 March 2010

Pardon Power Falling Into Disuse

A former U.S. Pardon Attorney, Margaret Colgate Love, documents the gradual demise through disuse of the pardon power:

[T]his article first looks at pardoning practices in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when the pardon power played an important operational role in the federal justice system. It describes how pardon evolved into parole, and after 1930 came to be used primarily to restore rights of citizenship. It then examines the reasons for pardon’s decline in the 1980s and its collapse in the Clinton Administration. Finally, it argues that President Obama should want to revive the power, and suggests how he might do it.

She notes that the growth of a Department of Justice bureaucracy effectively stifled the federal pardon power for those without political back channels that circumvent that process.

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