A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Former Obama administration pardon attorney suggests broken system in resignation letter

[JURIST] Former Pardon Attorney Deborah Leff indicated that the pardon system is broken in her resignation letter [text] that was obtained by USA Today on Monday after a Freedom of Information Act [text, PDF] request. Leff resigned from her position in the Obama administration in January, citing reasons such as being denied access to the White House Counsel's Office and the administration's decision not to hire needed staff to work on the pardons. Leff wrote:

[T]he position in which my office has been placed, asking us to address the petitions of nearly 10,000 individuals with so few attorneys and support staff, means that the requests of thousands of petitioners seeking justice will lie unheard. This is inconsistent with the mission and values to which I have dedicated my life, and inconsistent with what I believe the Department should represent.
Robert Zausmer, a career prosecutor, was named Leff's replacement [USA Today report] in February.

The Obama administration has pushed for several important changes to the criminal justice system. Last July Obama urged [JURIST report] Congress to reform the system by enacting legislation that would enforce criminal laws fairly and reduce disparities. In May the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] pledged $20 million dollars to encourage the implementation of body-worn cameras in law enforcement agencies throughout the country. In April 2014 the DOJ announced a new clemency initiative that would review and prioritize petitions from federal inmates seeking clemency if they meet certain criteria, and Obama commuted the sentences [JURIST report] of 46 drug offenders. In December 2014 the Obama administration announced [JURIST report] new rules intended to decrease racial profiling. In 2013 Obama commuted [JURIST report] the sentences of eight drug offenders, and in doing so, urged Congress to consider passing legislation which would make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 [text, PDF] retroactive for some offenders.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.