Monday, November 08, 2010

 

Sunday in Dallas


Here in Minneapolis, I'm starting to see some parallels between Dallas/Fort Worth and this area. Great restaurants. Great newspapers, too- I really like the Dallas Morning News. Their editorial staff has been great to work with in the pieces I have had there, and they do a wonderful job of editing my work-- it always gets better. In the past, I have had the chance on their editorial pages to discuss the death penalty, religion and the Supreme Court, and crack sentencing.

Yesterday, they ran a piece on what I am currently focusing on: The Presidential pardon power, and this President's unwillingness to use it. You can see that article here, and it got a nice bump from pardon guru P.S. Ruckman over at the Pardon Power blog, and from the Friends of Justice folks. If you read the whole thing, you might notice that I'm being a little more aggressive on this one-- here and elsewhere, I am pushing for some action on commutations before the end of the year.

Here is part of what I had to say:

Some have described the reverence Americans have for the Constitution as a "civil religion," and I'm not sure that is a bad thing. Religions instill values, and the Constitution certainly does that – it promotes and describes the values of self-restraint, of consensus, and of individual liberty. That is not a bad batch of virtues. In the pardon power, though, the Constitution expects expression of an additional virtue: mercy.

Mercy to those unfairly treated is an idea deeply engrained in the American consciousness and spirit, like the concepts of liberty and restraint. The framers did not lightly place the unchecked power of the pardon in the president's hands, because that power can easily be abused (as it sometimes has been). Still, they granted the executive that power with the expectation that from time to time rough edges in criminal law sometimes would have to be shaved off.

Comments:
Great article. Thanks for the thoughtful piece. Not to pile on, but I am often puzzled by the "principled stands" the President chooses to take. This seems like a no-brainer.
 
I read St. Augustine's critique of the death penalty for the first time last week in preparation for class. He, as you, called on the Roman magistrates to show mercy on two murderers in light of "our conscience" and "Catholic gentleness." What is amazing is that the reply letter from the Roman official has survived. Macedonius' response is strangely modern. In response to "Catholic gentleness," he argues that sins are to be punished and to do otherwise would bind us in a "fellowship of guilt." Sins are pardonable "as long as the guilty party promises to reform," but because of their "criminal mentality," there is no hope that they will change. As consolation to the pleadings of Augustine, Macedonius says that he is willing to "mitigate punishments in response to intercessions from good men."

- Henry
 
The Twin Cities and DFW also have football teams with major soap opera issues this year too.
 
My comment on the piece was posted in the first entry... But, although this other story from the DMN is unfolding (http://crimeblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/11/dallas-county-district-attorne-14.html), I find it sickening.
 
Anon, why is that making you sick? I'm sure if I said things about my boss or worked against his election I'd be fired too, and for good reason: we serve at the pleasure of elected officials, without the protections of civil service. I knew that when I took my oath.

Then again, my boss is all six kinds of awesome.
 
Lane,
Oh, I guess I would think the DA office would be bi-partisan and would focus on justice rather than politics. I guess I am naive.

I don't like the idea that someone can be fired for his (or her) choice of candidate.
 
A DA (who is an elected official) cannot afford not to be political. S/he has to run for re-election, presumably against someone from an opposite political party.

Choice of candidate is one thing. My ballot is secret and I can vote for whomever I want. But (and let's hypothesize, my boss wasn't up for re-election this year) let's say I show up at the political rally of my boss's opponent, and chant slogans impugning my boss, etc. I would be fired, and rightly so, not for expressing a political opinion, but for disloyalty to the guy that gave me a job.

Of course, that would be true whether I was a DA, an AUSA, or even a private attorney that unwisely critiqued his boss.
 
Lane, I don't agree with you. But, that is the topic for tomorrow...
 
OK, I'll save my comments for then. ;)
 
Lane,
Thank you for responding. I understand it is what it is... I just don't like it. I will shut up now. :)
 
Great editorial, on the pardon power. I hope Obama's press crew saw it.
 
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