Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Austin Sarat, Laura Gottesfeld, Carolina Kettles and Olivia Ward (Amherst College, Amherst College, Amherst College and Amherst College) have posted Donald Trump’s Clemencies: Unconventional Acts, Conventional Justifications on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
During his four years as president Donald Trump’s use of the clemency power generated considerable controversy. Much scholarship documents the fact that he ignored the traditional procedures for reviewing and approving requests for pardons and commutations and used clemency to favor a rogues’ gallery of cronies, celebrities and those whose crimes showed particular contempt for the law. However, few scholars have examined the justifications he offered when he granted pardons and commutations. This paper fills that gap. We argue that because the clemency power sits uneasily with democracy and the rule of law when presidents use this power they feel the need to supply justifications. We report on a study of Trump’s clemency justifications that suggests that while his clemencies themselves were often controversial and his means of communicating about them unconventional, the reasons he gave for them were generally quite conventional and continuous with the justifications offered by his predecessors for their pardons and commutations.