UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why it is not only possible and necessary to reform the president’s constitutional pardon power, but why doing so should be a high priority. Professor Buchanan argues that preventing future abuses of the pardon is critical to preventing its use as a tool of autocracy.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the President’s pardon power is not absolute or unreviewable, despite what many have suggested. Professor Buchanan observes that this conventional misreading of the clause is agrammatical because it treats an ambiguous provision as if it were unambiguous, and he points out that even self-styled textualists do not construct comparable provisions of the Constitution so absolutely.
Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb describes the assumptions inherent in the executive pardon power and explains why the purpose of the presidential pardon forecloses the possibility of a self-pardon. Colb argues that the only person who would dare to try to grant a self-pardon—one who lacks empathy—is the very one who should not be exercising the pardon power at all.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—describes how President Trump’s pardons reveal his “superficial and distorted” understanding of American values. Professor Sarat points out that for someone who claims to value the clemency power, President Trump has granted clemency fewer times than any President since William McKinley, who served from 1897 to 1901, and when Trump has granted clemency, he has used it to reward people whose crimes show their contempt for the rule of law.
Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that if President Trump were to pardon himself, that action itself would not cause a constitutional crisis, but other actions Trump has already taken have already placed us far along a road to a constitutional crisis. Dorf defines a constitutional crisis in terms of three types first articulated by Sanford Levinson and Jack Balkin in a 2009 law review article, and Dorf proposes a fourth type characterized by defiance of unwritten norms that are not themselves legal obligations but that undergird the constitutional system as a whole.