Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides that the president "shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment." Despite this explicit authority, and the thousands of clemency petitions received by the Department of Justice each Administration – close to 6,000 such petitions have been received by the Obama Administration thus far – the pardon power is a tool rarely used in our criminal justice system. As the Administration wraps up its first term in office having granted 23 clemency petitions, we consider whether the pardon power should be used as a tool for balancing unfair sentencing laws in the criminal justice system.
The president commuted the sentence of federal prisoner Eugenia Jennings, who was serving a 22-year sentence for a nonviolent crack cocaine offense. Should clemency in this context become customary? Is there a viable pardon process that can be used? If pardon power is exercised regularly, how do we ensure fair and nondiscriminatory procedures? Are governors setting an example at the state level for how pardon powers should be used? These questions and others will be considered by the program’s panel of experts.
- Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations
- Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
- Robert L. Ehrlich, Senior Counsel, King & Spaulding; former Maryland Governor. While in office, Governor Ehrlich granted clemency to over 200 people. He now seeks to level the odds for pardon applicants by launching a law school clinic and training program devoted to pardons.
- Dafna Linzer, Senior Reporter, ProPublica
- Margaret Colgate Love, Private Practitioner (clemency specialist); former U.S. Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice
- Jesselyn McCurdy, Senior Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union
- Mark Osler, Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law
- Jeffrey Crouch, Assistant Professor, American University (moderator)
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