Constitutional Law of Pardons
Although it is frequently asserted that the President’s pardoning authority is in some sense “absolute” or “unlimited,” this is an exaggeration. It is perfectly true the President has the largely unreviewable discretion to grant clemency in any case that falls within the scope of the Pardon Clause, but it does not follow that his pardoning authority is therefore without discernible, albeit broad, limits. In the attached essay, I sketch an overview of the Supreme Court’s Pardon Clause jurisprudence, in order to explain the scope and limits of the President’s power and the different types of relief available through the mechanism of executive clemency.
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"Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell."
Hanna Arendt, The Human Condition
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