By Alan Bean
Thanks to Doug Berman for alerting me to this hard-hitting critique of the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney. Samuel Morison’s comments originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
Here’s the heart of his critique: “Having spent more than 10 years as a staff attorney in that office, I can say with some authority that the prevailing view within the Justice Department is that the pardon attorney’s sole institutional function is to defend the department’s prosecutorial prerogatives. There is little, if any, pretense of neutrality, much less liberality. On this parochial view, the institution of a genuinely humane clemency policy would be considered an insult to the good work of line prosecutors.”
President Obama should rely more on his own moral judgment than the Justice Department’s in making clemency and pardon decisions.
By Samuel T. Morison
November 6, 2010
The Times’ well-intentioned Oct. 30 editorial bemoaning that fact that President Obama hasn’t yet granted any pardons or commutations, in which the editorial board correctly notes that the president is “aided in such decisions by the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Justice Department,” betrays a profound misunderstanding of the role the pardon office plays in the clemency advisory process. In particular, The Times writes, “Ideally, presidents would give great deference to the pardon attorney’s recommendations and take a liberal view of the clemency power, exercising it often and on the basis of clear standards.” (more…)