Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Presidential Pardon Reform Update

Status check on Presidential Pardons.

As predicted, The Trump Abomination is desecrating the power of the pardon to further depths, now possibly ready to pardon murderers and perpetrators of war crimes. The New York Times lead editorial for Monday, May 20 takes note with horror:

As readers might remember, this issue has attracted our attention previously. Our long term solution is to pass a constitutional amendment that would require that every pardon be co-signed by the Speaker of the House.

So my writing partner David Levine, my long time next door neighbor and professor of law at UC Hastings, and I responded to the editorial in a letter that was just published:

To the Editor:
Yes, President Trump’s heinous use of the pardon as a political and evasive tool is unpardonable. Until Watergate, the tool was rarely abused. In an increasing trend, however, we have had Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush’s notorious, and probably self-exculpatory, Iran-contra pardons (encouraged by his attorney general, William Barr), the sordid pardon by Bill Clinton of the fugitive financier Marc Rich that you cite, George W. Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence and now Mr. Trump.
Since the power is constitutional, legislative remedies are unlikely to be sufficient to counter the trend. Instead, we need a constitutional amendment that would require that all pardons be co-signed by the speaker of the House. Requiring two signatures would improve the odds of decency in the decision.
Budd N. Shenkin
David I. Levine
Berkeley, Calif.

In a very nice coincidence, on this very same day David and I received word that the Constitutional Law Quarterly would like to publish our essay on this subject that is the successor to my February post.
This is good news! The strategy is to get the word out, to put it on the agenda of post-Trump Abomination reforms. All potential constitutional amendments are long shots, but it would appear that this one is certainly meritorious. At least we think so.

Budd Shenkin

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