Former MD Governor Robert Ehrlich on Improving the Pardon Process
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Posted by: Max Rodriguez
On November 19, 2012, former MD Governor Robert Ehrlich spoke to UDC-DCSL students, faculty and alumni on the need to improve the pardon and clemency process and how, in the interests of justice, we might go about influencing chief executives to make pardons routine.
The Governor began his talk by describing and decrying the explosion of mass incarceration in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s. He also pointed out that party affiliation is not a good predictor of how many pardons a governor or president might issue - for instance, the current Obama pardon attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice has not issued many pardons compared to others in previous administrations.
Ehrlich then shared some lessons he learned while Governor. First, he explained, potential pardons must be very carefully investigated and that good planning is paramount, especially with regard to informing victims and their families, as well as the press, well in advance. He emphasized that due in part to a press culture focused on the potential politics behind a pardon, it’s crucial to avoid surprises, which almost always result in suspicion and bad press. The Governor also stressed that while it was important to him to decide each case on its merits, he would not issue a pardon if the person was behind on child support payments! And he insisted wryly that though party identification is not a predictor of where someone will stand on this topic, issuing pardons does not get Republicans a single vote. "The best part about being Governor is the ability to do justice” he said.
After his presentation, Robert Ehrlich told the crowd, "Your activity should be focused on fixing the juvenile justice system.”
At the beginning of the evening, Dean Broderick and UDC President Allen Sessoms provided brief welcoming remarks, and Founder and President of the Criminal Justice Society, Robert Newman (‘14 PT) introduced the Governor.