The executive department, headed by the countrys President is regarded separate from the justice department. However with the Constitutions grant of presidential power to pardon, there have been raised arguments and controversies as to the possible damaging effects of this power. Legal experts have even differing views as to the nature and extent of Presidential Pardon, some of which are presented in this paper. Considering this, this author managed to explore the nature, scope and limitation of the Presidents power to pardon. This paper aims to make the readers understand how valuable this power is in promoting justice and healing the leaks in the justice system by granting pardon to those who are proven to be wrongfully accused.
ORIGIN OF THE PRESIDENTS POWER TO PARDON
Historically, the Presidents power to grant pardon originated from the Royal English Prerogative of Kings which is system adapted by the English empire before the Norman invasion (J. Pfiffner). The difference however with that of the contemporary Presidential Pardon is the pardon during the time of the English kings, pardons were granted for military service or for money which encouraged its parliament to limit this power1. After passing in the Act of Settlement in 1701, the kings power to grant pardon exempted impeachment. In the United States today, Presidential Power to Pardon is granted to the President by its constitution. As cited in Article II Section 2, The President¦shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
DEFINITION OF PRESIDENTIAL PARDON
As being differentiated from clemency and commutation of sentence, pardon serves as an official statement of forgiveness for the commission of a federal crime and restores basic civil rights (J. Keen). By legal definition, pardon applies to offenders, meaning that pardon does not assume innocence of the subject of pardon nor affect the legal guilt of a person. In this case, pardon completely removes all the legal effects of the crime from the person. The president can issue pardon in just to time frame.
First, the President can issue pardon at the time the offense is committed, and second at the time after the subject has finished serving its full sentence. The only restriction on its issuance is that a pardon cannot be granted before a crime or offense is committed. The practicality of this is that, a person cannot be held liable or convicted of a crime unless he first commit it and so a pardon will not practically take effect. Also, the laws determine if ones action is criminally offensive and so the issue of a pardon before the commitment of crime will in effect waive the law.
Legal experts have differing opinions as to the nature and characteristic of Presidential pardon. Others regard it as an act of grace (Chief Justice John Marshall). In Marshalls opinion, this exclusive power vested on the president, a criminal is consequently exempted from the punishment of the law. It is also important to note that Marshall argues that presidential pardon is not actually granted for the mere purpose of helping the individual to obtain justice but to gain a public appeal2. Some see presidential pardon as a powerful tool of restoring the tranquility of the commonwealth (Alexander Hamilton). Hamilton has cited the incidents of presidential pardons granted to those people convicted of rebellion against the government wherein the granting of pardon may heal political and civil unrest.
SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF PRESIDENTIAL PARDON
PURPOSES OF PRESIDENTIAL PARDON
There are three broad purposes of Presidential pardon:
SIGNIFICANCE OF PRESIDENTIAL PARDON
When an offender is convicted of a crime, he consequently suffers from disqualifications. In other words, a convicted individual will be deprived of availing or practicing legal and civil rights, as inclusions of his punishments legally termed as civil or legal disabilities. It is defined as the lack or absence of legal capacity to act or to enjoy legal rights created by positive laws4. In the California Pardon Resource Center website, civil disabilities are categorized as general, which means that a person is incapacitated of performing all acts classified as general, and specific which means that an offender is prohibited from performing a specific act (J. Mullins). As per Mullins, with presidential pardon, all these disabilities are eliminated from a military or federal offender. This, along with the enumerated purposes of presidential pardon is the essence of such power vested exclusively to the president.
The pardon power of the president is one of his powerful tools granted by the constitution to be used in promoting peace and justice for all his fellow countrymen. Being the only power exclusively granted to the president, which can be exercised by him without the mitigation of the congress and the other branches of the government, the Constitution implies and assumes that the president will be intelligent enough in exercising his exclusive power. By looking at the definition and nature of Presidential pardon, this paper was able to provide an idea on how this presidential power works. Also by exploring the scope and limitation, the purposes and the significance of the power, this paper was able to make clear the essential areas or points that are needed to be considered in learning about the subject. By citing examples of presidential pardons and considering the views and statements of legal experts, this writer assumes that the aim of this paper to present the advantages or benefits of the Presidential Power to Pardon has been met.
1Pffifner, James. The Presidents Broad Power to Pardon and Commute The Heritage Foundation. July 09, 2007. Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://www.heritage.org/Research/LegalIssues/wm1543.cfm
2United States v. Wilson, 32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 150 (1833)
3Ross, William G. Question a Presidents Pardons but not the Pardon Power Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forum/forumnew16.HTM
4Mullins, Jerome P. 12 Steps to a Federal Pardon Retrieved on July 16, 2007 from http://www.silicon-valley.com/pardonme/index.shtml
Keen, Judy. How do Presidential Pardons Work? USA Today. February 22, 2001. Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2001-02-22-qapardons.htm
United States Department of Justice. Pardon Information and Instructions Retrieved on July 16, 2007 from http://www.usdoj.gov/pardon/pardon_instructions.htm
Field, Stephen. Ex parte Garland 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 333 (1867)
Hamilton, Alexander. The Federalist. No. 74
United States v. Klein, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 128 (1871)