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Politics & Policy

Amend the US Constitution: Limit Presidential Pardons

President Ford Pardons Nixon

President Ford Pardons Nixon, Courtesy of WikiMedia

This is a proposal to immediately limit the power and extent of presidential pardons. The vast majority of Americans of most political affiliations claim to want limits on Presidential power and on the abilities of the powerful to game or abuse the legal system in their favor. We all also seem to want real criminals to be punished, even or perhaps especially when those criminals are rich and powerful.

If this is true, than one constitutional amendment should be very simple. And that is to limit the Presidential pardoning power in terms of how many pardons can be granted, to whom, and during which part of the presidential term.

Restrict Presidential Pardons

I propose the following Amendment to the US Constitution to be finalized and considered immediately, taken up by Congress and passed to the states for ratification, as a demonstration of the current President’s commitment to limiting power of him/herself and all future Presidents:

The President shall be limited to no more than 100 pardons per term, where a pardon is defined as forgiveness of a single crime, so that the President can pardon one person for ten crimes or ten people for one crime each, or any combination thereof, but no more. These pardons cannot be issued for crimes encouraged by or participated in by the President, or from which the President benefits directly. And no pardons may be issued between the time of the last presidential election and the subsequent inauguration, even if the same President remains in office; except that the President may issue a temporary stay of execution for persons who might be pardoned after the subsequent inauguration. Pardons not used in the first term of  President do not role over to the second term, and this limit applies to the office, not the person–so that any person acting as or replacing the initially elected President is bound by the same total limit on pardons-per-term as the President themselves.

Details of the Proposed Amendment

The following provides additional detail and background on each part of the proposed amendment.

Limiting the Total Number of Pardons

While the limitation to 100 pardons is somewhat arbitrary, there needs to be a set limit on this power. It is thus suggested that a reasonable limit should be substantially lower than the number of pardons issued by most presidents.

Democratic president Andrew Johnson pardoned about 7,000 people in the “over $20,000” class (taxable property over $20,000) by May 4, 1866. More than 600 prominent North Carolinians were pardoned just before the election of 1864.[15] President Andrew Johnson pardoned, commuted or rescinded the convictions of 654 people – Wikipedia

Limiting to Crimes not Committed by the President

This should be self explanatory, but for obvious reasons the pardon power should not be used in the interests of protecting or promulgating corruption.

No “Lame Duck” Pardons

In order to prevent pardons related to election interference in favor of the president, or other unsavory acts, pardons cannot be issued after the previous election or until the subsequent inauguration, regardless of whether the President has pardons remaining to use. The sole exception should probably be that the president can issue temporary stays of execution for persons that can be pardoned after this period ends. One important benefit of this is that all pardons can be considered in the election itself…at least if issues substantially prior to the election.

No Rollover Pardons

The President is limited to 100 pardons per term, period, and pardons not used do not rollover to the subsequent term, if any. And any other person taking on the power or office of president due to death, incapacitation, etc., shall not have pardons independent of the presidents total number; the number is thus limited to 100 pardons per term, regardless of how many presidents or proxies occupy the office during that term.

Act Now to Limit Presidential Pardons

There’s no reason to wait. Find your elected federal representatives and demand this amendment to limit presidential pardons today:

How to Find Your Representative

You can find all US Representatives here, and US Senators here, along with links to their contact information.

Letter to Send

If you want to use this boilerplate / template, please feel free. Or express yourself in your own words. Whatever you do, do something:

Dear [Title & Name]:

I would like to ask that you take up this proposed amendment to the US Constitution in the next applicable committee meeting or legislative session. It’s time to put a limit on the power of presidential pardons:

The President shall be limited to no more than 100 pardons per term, where a pardon is defined as forgiveness of a single crime, so that the President can pardon one person for ten crimes or ten people for one crime each, or any combination thereof, but no more. These pardons cannot be issued for crimes encouraged by or participated in by the President, or from which the President benefits directly. And no pardons may be issued between the time of the last presidential election and the subsequent inauguration, even if the same President remains in office; except that the President may issue a temporary stay of execution for persons who might be pardoned after the subsequent inauguration. Pardons not used in the first term of  President do not role over to the second term, and this limit applies to the office, not the person–so that any person acting as or replacing the initially elected President is bound by the same total limit on pardons-per-term as the President themselves.

Thank you for your attention to this timely and important topic.

Regards,
[Your Name]

Sign the Petition

There are of course related petitions on Change.org and other sites, but the one specific to this amendment is here. Please sign and join the effort today.

Possible Adjustments & Questions

I imagine people will debate all aspects of this proposed amendment, but hopefully only at the level of detail and not core intent.

  • What would you add / remove / adjust about this amendment?
  • Why would you oppose this amendment?
  • What would it take for you to actively support this amendment?

From my perspective, we should try to do a few things most of us agree on to demonstrate to ourselves that we remain a country united — and because it’s the right thing to do.

What do you think?

Peace.

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