Welcome!

News Feed Item

Judicial Watch Sues Justice Department for Records on Obama's Massive Effort to Grant Clemency to Criminals

Obama Administration Unprecedented Clemency Initiative Could Free More Than 20,000 Convicted Felons From Federal Prisons

WASHINGTON, DC -- (Marketwired) -- 07/23/14 -- Judicial Watch announced today that on June 23, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records of communication between the office of Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Federal Defenders: the ACLU, FAMM, the ABA, and NACCL relating to the organizations' "Clemency Project 2014" (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:14-cv-01048)). The Clemency Project supports an initiative announced by the DOJ in April that would empower President Obama to grant mass clemency to as many as 20,000 convicted felons now serving time for drug-related sentences.

The FOIA lawsuit filed pursuant to a March 10, 2014, FOIA request seeks the following:

Any and all records of communications between employees or officials of the Office of Deputy Attorney General James Cole and representatives of the Federal Defenders, the ACLU, FAMM, the ABA, and NACDL related to, or in connection with or regarding the 'Clemency Project 2014' from January 1, 2014 to the present date.

On April 23, 2014, Deputy Attorney James Cole announced the Obama clemency initiative saying it would encourage federal inmates sentenced under what he termed "out-of-date laws" to petition to have their sentences "commuted, or reduced, by the President of the United States." The clemency initiative is part of the Obama administration's effort to end alleged racial discrimination in drug-related sentences. It started with the 2010 signing of the Fair Sentencing Act, which for the first time in decades relaxed drug-crime sentences. The measure severely weakened a decades-old law enacted during the crack cocaine epidemic that ravaged urban communities nationwide in the 1980s.

But the Fair Sentencing Act is not retroactive so the president launched his broad plan in April to help those sentenced under the older, stricter law that required mandatory prison for first-time offenders and a five-year sentence for trafficking offenses involving more than five grams of crack cocaine.

In announcing the administration's clemency initiative, Cole acknowledged the role of "numerous groups and individual attorneys" who had been working with DOJ to free the convicted drug offenders:

In January, I gave a speech to the New York State Bar Association in which I called upon private attorneys to volunteer to assist potential candidates in assembling commutation petitions -- ones which provide a focused presentation of the information the Department and the President will consider -- in order to meaningfully evaluate whether a petitioner qualifies under this initiative. Since that time, dedicated and experienced criminal defense and nonprofit lawyers have responded to that call. These numerous groups and individual attorneys, who are calling themselves Clemency Project 2014, will be working with inmates who appear to meet the six criteria and request the assistance of a lawyer.

Among the groups that comprise Clemency Project 2014 are Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the American Bar Association (ABA), and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). Judicial Watch has now filed suit for DOJ communications with each of the organizations.

Cole's statement also included an announcement that DOJ Pardon Attorney Ron Rodgers had abruptly resigned his position. Though Cole characterized the Rodgers resignation as "in the tradition" of senior executive service attorneys who ask for reassignment, there was some indication that it may have come about as a result of Rodger's disagreement with the Obama clemency initiative. Rodgers, who is known for his opposition to clemency requests, was replaced by Deborah Leff, who worked with the Access to Justice Initiative, a DOJ agency aiding low-income defendants in court. According to the liberal publication The American Prospect: "For those hoping to see a robust clemency push, her background bodes well."

Historically, the power to reduce sentences and grant pardons has been used on a case-by-case basis. During his presidency, George W. Bush granted only 11 sentence commutations, while Bill Clinton granted a total of 61. Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford University and co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, questions whether the Obama clemency move rightly falls under the Executive Branch, "Although it's being done through the pardon power, it really is a kind of administrative action to make some of the newer laws retroactive...It's almost as if they have to invent their own kind of shadow sentencing guidelines and in effect re-sentence certain people."

Certain members of Congress are also balking at the Obama clemency initiative, with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), stating, "While the pardon power has been interpreted broadly, the Framers never intended for it to be used in this manner. Rather, they intended for it to be used on a limited, case-by-case basis to correct injustice, not to be a tool for the administration to rewrite or even eliminate laws passed by Congress."

"This is clearly yet another case of the president abusing his authority," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "This is an example of the imperial presidency at its worst, and the American people have a right to know who is behind his arrant usurpation of power. And his Department of Justice's outsourcing of its work to left-wing interest groups is yet another abuse that undermines accountability. So it is no surprise that the Department of Justice is now violating our nation's primary open records law and refusing to divulge basic information about this controversial program."

More Stories By Marketwired .

Copyright © 2009 Marketwired. All rights reserved. All the news releases provided by Marketwired are copyrighted. Any forms of copying other than an individual user's personal reference without express written permission is prohibited. Further distribution of these materials is strictly forbidden, including but not limited to, posting, emailing, faxing, archiving in a public database, redistributing via a computer network or in a printed form.

Latest Stories
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor – all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
Let’s face it, embracing new storage technologies, capabilities and upgrading to new hardware often adds complexity and increases costs. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Seth Oxenhorn, Vice President of Business Development & Alliances at FalconStor, discussed how a truly heterogeneous software-defined storage approach can add value to legacy platforms and heterogeneous environments. The result reduces complexity, significantly lowers cost, and provides IT organizations with improved efficienc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, cutting-edge enterprise web applications for desktop and mobile. SmartClient combines the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simp...
"We've discovered that after shows 80% if leads that people get, 80% of the conversations end up on the show floor, meaning people forget about it, people forget who they talk to, people forget that there are actual business opportunities to be had here so we try to help out and keep the conversations going," explained Jeff Mesnik, Founder and President of ContentMX, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"When you think about the data center today, there's constant evolution, The evolution of the data center and the needs of the consumer of technology change, and they change constantly," stated Matt Kalmenson, VP of Sales, Service and Cloud Providers at Veeam Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Yoseph Reuveni, Director of Software Engineering at Jet.com, will discuss Jet.com's journey into containerizing Microsoft-based technologies like C# and F# into Docker. He will talk about lessons learned and challenges faced, the Mono framework tryout and how they deployed everything into Azure cloud. Yoseph Reuveni is a technology leader with unique experience developing and running high throughput (over 1M tps) distributed systems with extre...
To leverage Continuous Delivery, enterprises must consider impacts that span functional silos, as well as applications that touch older, slower moving components. Managing the many dependencies can cause slowdowns. See how to achieve continuous delivery in the enterprise.
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
We all know the latest numbers: Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from last year, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. We're rapidly approaching a data production of 40 zettabytes a day – more than we can every physically store, and exabytes and yottabytes are just around the corner. For many that’s a good sign, as data has been proven to equal money – IF it’s ingested, integrated, and analyzed fast enough. Without real-ti...
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
As companies gain momentum, the need to maintain high quality products can outstrip their development team’s bandwidth for QA. Building out a large QA team (whether in-house or outsourced) can slow down development and significantly increases costs. This eBook takes QA profiles from 5 companies who successfully scaled up production without building a large QA team and includes: What to consider when choosing CI/CD tools How culture and communication can make or break implementation
Actian Corporation has announced the latest version of the Actian Vector in Hadoop (VectorH) database, generally available at the end of July. VectorH is based on the same query engine that powers Actian Vector, which recently doubled the TPC-H benchmark record for non-clustered systems at the 3000GB scale factor (see tpc.org/3323). The ability to easily ingest information from different data sources and rapidly develop queries to make better business decisions is becoming increasingly importan...