How Pardon Decisions Are Made
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
One striking feature of the growing literature on executive clemency is the lack of meaningful discussion about how clemency petitions are actually presented to the President, including the longstanding role played by the Justice Department in advising the President on clemency matters. To a certain extent, this lack of precision is perfectly understandable. Given the legitimate privacy concerns of clemency applicants, who are required to submit a variety of sensitive information about their lives in support of a petition, coupled with the legitimate need of the President to receive frank and uninhibited advice about the merits of cases, the clemency review process is to a large extent shielded from public scrutiny, which inevitably shrouds it with an air of mystery.
For more information about the evaluation process at the OPA, read Samuel Morison's essay, "How Pardon Decisions Are Made."