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Other views: Blanket non-pardon policy is wrong

6:31 PM, Jan. 24, 2013  |  Comments
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News item: Gov. Scott Walker has not issued a pardon after two years in office.

On first blush, that is not a piece of remarkable news. With budget and economic issues in the forefront, reviewing pardons would not be an immediate priority for the governor. Nor is it not out of the realm of possibility that there are no cases that merit the use of the extraordinary power of pardon given to the governor under Wisconsin's Constitution. Indeed, to grant a pardon is an absolute, even autocratic, power the framers of the U.S. Constitution gave the president, which most states followed suit as they crafted their own constitutions.

Even in establishing a system of checks and balances, of powers divided between branches, the framers understood that even the best system could produce outcomes that are flawed or unjust. And because it is such an absolute power, most chief executives have used the pardon sparingly and have taken great pains to explain in detail the facts behind granting pardons. When that power has been abused, governors and presidents have paid high prices for exercising poor judgment.

In Wisconsin, governors traditionally have appointed members of a Pardon Advisory Board to review cases and make recommendations of cases that merit the use of a pardon. The Associated Press reports that under state law, a pardon doesn't overturn or erase a conviction, but restores rights, including the ability to possess a firearm, hold licenses such as liquor licenses and hold public office.

But Walker hasn't even appointed a board. His spokesman, Cullen Werwie, told the Associated Press the governor has suspended the pardon program but offered no explanation beyond "because he has made the decision not to grant any pardons at this time." Nor did Werwie have any numbers on how many people have requested a pardon, saying only that the office has received "a bunch," according to the report.

It is one thing to not grant any pardons after a careful review and analysis. It is another to rule it out altogether. That smacks of a rigidness that respects neither the Constitution nor holds much hope for correcting legitimate cases of injustice.

Gov. Walker is wrong to make blanket policy of not issuing pardons.

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