The Justice Department today revealed the names of the seven people who received pardons and commutations from the President as a result of the negotiated release of the Americans being held in Iran. Almost all of those who received the presidential relief were accused of economic crimes related to the embargo with Iran.
This comes on the heels of the announcement that the Pardon Attorney, Deborah Leff, is resigning. The Office of the Pardon Attorney, located at DOJ, assists the President in carrying out his pardon and reprieve powers pursuant to Article II, section 2. According to this Politico article about the resignation, the Pardon Attorney had nearly 10,000 pending cases at the close of last year, about five times the number of pending cases when President Obama took office. Much of this workload is due to the President’s Clemency Initiative, which was designed to provide relief for “low-level” federal drug offenders without a history of violence and without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations. As a result of the sharp increase in applications for clemency, the Pardon Attorney’s office has been on something of a hiring binge for new lawyers.
Although President Obama has faced criticism for a weak record in this area, look for the President to ramp up his clemency work as we near the end of his presidency. This will require substantial work on the part of the Pardon Attorney and his or her team of lawyers. I hope the relevant positions can be filled soon.