Is there actually anything positive about presidential pardons?

I presume that Trump’s current pardon-fest is probably just a really more egregious and outrageous example of what most presidents do, regardless of party affiliation (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

Is there actually any validity to this pardon convention? All of these pardonees have been convicted of something have they not? So why not ban this from now on, post-Trump? Or would it require some massive time consuming process to do so? It just seems like such a ridiculous and pointless tradition.

I think the idea was to right egregious miscarriages of justice (what many/most of Obama’s pardons looked like), rather than to repay supporters and toadies, or to shore up the support of one’s base.

ETA: it derives from the Constitution, making change a very heavy lift:

Pardons are part of the system of checks and balances. We understand that government can’t operate perfectly so pardons provide a way to undo the mistakes of the justice system. They are especially important when we have a Supreme Court that has decided that guilt or innocence is determined by a process and not the facts.

Bearing in mind what Davidnrockies and Tripolar state above, ISTM that any ethical or compassionate intent behind pardons has become irrelevant and, notwithstanding that Biden might grant them wisely or benevolantly, is there any chance that the Republicans will do the same in the future, or is the whole concept now permanently fucked?

Not that I have any desire to defend Trump, and most of his recent pardons are pretty despicable, but there are a few examples mixed in there of compassionate relief.

One of those released is 89, and plead guilty in 1952 for helping a relative distill moonshine. Another was sentenced to 55 years for selling marijuana while carrying a gun. I could see either of those cases as using the pardon power in a positive way.

Clinton had some pretty awful pardons as well. It’s not just a Trump thing.

I hate the pardon power. I’d rather some other process that goes through the courts instead. TriPolar makes a good point that the decision about guilt or innocence is determined by a process instead of facts, but there’s no reason you couldn’t have an extraordinary process that looks at the overall picture, regardless of whether someone was a day late in submitting some paperwork or had a terrible lawyer.

Well there is A reason, in that it would require a constitutional amendment, but it would be great to have an apolitical board or court that is tasked with reviewing “justice” or something.

The pardon power makes the president seem like a king and I’m opposed to any monarchy here.

The Supreme Court does do that. But they can’t serve as a Check and Balance on the judicial branch of government. The executive branch is where this power belongs, but there needs to be a better check on them than just the legislature’s impeachment power.

I Am Not A Lawyer, but it’s my understanding that the Supreme Court doesn’t do that. The following is my understanding (someone please correct me if I’m wrong): factual innocence is not grounds for appeal. The Supreme Court does not review findings of fact in the original trial court, nor do they review claims of factual innocence. They only review claims of improper process. As long as the proper process was followed, the only recourse someone who was incorrectly convicted of a federal crime has is a Presidential pardon.

There actually is a process for that. The Department of Justice has an office, the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the sole job of which is to review the overall process, vet pardon applications, and issue pardon recommendations to the President. But, per the Constitution, it can only ever have an advisory role. Short of a Constitutional amendment, the President has sole and absolute power to issue pardons.

Fair enough. If that sort of standard is renewed in the Biden era, do you believe that it is likely that such an ethical standard will be upheld in the future?

I think you are correct, but they have it their power to hear appeals on matters of process and rights that can indirectly lead to additional review. It’s not really important to my point though, you can’t have an effective check and balance on the judicial branch applied by the judicial branch itself.

There are some of Obama’s pardons.

Gerald Ford pardoned Robert E. Lee, while Carter pardoned Jefferson Davis. Not sure what their point was there. Barack Obama pardoned over nineteen hundred people, while Individual-ONE has, so far, issued less than fifty pardons.

wikipedia list of presidential pardons (partial)

I think that every President has had some set of pardons that meet a high ethical/moral standard. And every recent President has paid off some political debts with pardons. I think it’s just part and parcel of the pardon power.

I was disgusted by the Marc Rich deal, but did any Clinton pardon approach the foulness of freeing war criminals? I can’t elevate financial crimes to that level of despicability.

But like the archaic and undemocratic electoral college, the pardoning power can only be altered by amendment. I’m not even in favor of removing the privilege outright; just banning it in the lame duck period. Presidential power is out of control. There is no good reason for a defeated president to be making policy, issuing executive orders, and/or granting pardons. The people have spoken. Shut up, attend funerals and carry out other trivial duties, and then humbly pass the baton at the inauguration.

I don’t think there’s an equivalence between Trump and any other president. But, the problem with the Marc Rich pardon is that it was just corruption (from what I remember). I agree that pardoning war criminals is worse.

Getting rid of it after election day won’t do much to change it. Just be rid of it.

In terms of business, I’m a believer in the saying that you don’t manage to the exception. You do what’s right for the vast majority of cases and deal with the exceptions as they come up.

Trump is so insanely exceptional in every pejorative way that it’s difficult to imagine how much we’d have to tweak the institutions of government in order to get the stink out – to Trump-proof the US against the – as Asahi mused – better, smarter, more effective version of the CFSG.

The FF’s believed that the Constitution should be revisited about once a generation. They knew things would change, and that they may have missed a thing or two. They may – arguably – have also foretold the potential of a CFSG.

Maybe it is time for another Constitutional Convention. Helluva’ Pay-per-View event, anyway, eh ?

But it’s hard to assess the wisdom of a total gut renovation down to the studs if there’s any reasonable way to just prevent the criminally insane from becoming President.


Hopefully, this was still on topic :wink:

I like it because the voters can factor pardons into their judgement of the candidate and/or party. It at least provides a measure of accountability. I dread to see what an undisciplined and immoral fool like Trump will come up with next. Hell, if he wants, he can pardon every single convict in the federal prison system.

That can be four years right now unless you mean the time preceding inauguration day after a sitting president loses an election. Four years can be too long to achieve justice, and even if you mean that shorter time period there should be an alternative means for a pardon as well, at least if the president cannot issue one. And there probably should always be such an alternative anyway. We shouldn’t have to rely on one person who almost half the country hates to provide pardons.

Sorry, I meant the transition period. A president who lost an election or is term-limited out would not be able to issue pardons on or after election day.