Recently, the Illinois Senate passed a bill which would expand the universe of cases eligible for sealing. The Illinois House previously passed it in March. Assuming that Governor Quinn signs the bill, it will allow those convicted of most misdemeanor violent crimes to seal those cases. Previously, any violent crime conviction, misdemeanor or felony, was not eligible to seal or expunge. The only option to remove these types of offenses from a criminal record was executive clemency. Under this new bill, misdemeanor violent offenses (except for a few listed exceptions, such as domestic battery) will be eligible to be sealed by the court directly.
This will be a happy Easter weekend for many clemency petitioners. Today, Governor Pat Quinn released his latest batch of clemency decisions, which includes 43 granted and 65 denied. Since he has taken office, Governor Quinn has decided on 2,923 clemency petitions (pardon and commutation), granting 1,075 of them.
As always, congratulations to those of you receiving executive clemency! May you go into the next chapter of your life with happiness and success!
This Christmas Eve, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn decided on more executive clemency petitions by granting 38 and denying an additional 129. All 38 clemency petitions came in the form of pardons with authorization to expunge them from their criminal record. Since taking office, Governor Quinn has now acted on 2,815 clemency petitions, granting 1,032.
I am sure this will be a very merry Christmas and happy New Year for those 38 deserving individuals. Congratulations and happy holidays!
Yesterday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn decided on 189 executive clemency petitions, granting 65 of them. This is Governor Quinn's first batch of decisions released since March. This batch came from dockets ranging from 2004-2012. As is typically the case, the considerable majority of the clemency decisions come in the form of pardon with authorization to expunge.
Including yesterday's decisions, Governor Quinn has now acted on 2,648 clemency petitions, granting 994. While Quinn has worked through most the petition backlog that built up under former governor Rod Blagojevich, there are still some left over as this latest batch indicates.
Congratulations to all of those who received pardons and will now be able to seek expungements! For most of you, the wait was long and difficult, but now you may finally move forward in your lives without the burden of a criminal record. We must also extend our gratitude to Governor Quinn for realizing the importance of giving a second chance to those who have earned it!
This weekend, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law bills aimed at helping those with a criminal record to restart their lives. As previously discussed, one of these new laws will increase a tax incentive for employers to hire ex-offenders.
However, the biggest change in the law for record clearing purposes is a further expansion of felony convictions eligible for sealing. Previously, the only felony convictions eligible for sealing were Class 4 level drug possession or prostitution unless special authorization was granted by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. But under this new law, sealing eligibility will also include Class 3 and Class 4 level theft, retail theft, forgery, possession of burglary tools, and deceptive practices.
When the bill was originally introduced, it also included Class 2 level felony cases burglary, delivery of a controlled substance, and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. But, these offenses were later deleted as the bill was amended. If you were convicted of any of these felonies, your option for clearing it from your criminal record is still executive clemency (Governor’s pardon).
Today is the pardon petition deadline in Illinois, a quarterly deadline to submit petitions requesting executive clemency to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. Apart from the many living individuals asking Governor Quinn for a second chance, this time there are some 19th century names in the batch as well.
After working with historians, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon has filed petitions on behalf of abolitionists convicted in the 1800s. Although slavery was abolished in Illinois in 1824 – well before the civil war – the law at the time still prohibited assisting fugitives from slave states. Simon’s petitioners include:
· Dr. Richard Eells, a participant in the Underground Railroad in Quincy who was caught in 1842 assisting Charley, a runaway slave from Missouri
· Samuel and Julius Willard, father-and-son abolitionists of the Jacksonville area who were convicted in 1843 of harboring a fugitive slave
Although most people seek a pardon for better job opportunities, there are plenty of individuals who would like a pardon primarily to clear their name. An executive pardon is an act of state-sanctioned forgiveness. It is apparently for this reason that Lt. Governor Simon has submitted these petitions. After more than 150 years, a pardon for these abolitionists from Governor Quinn would be an acknowledgement of an unjust policy, and a public gesture of gratitude for their efforts.
The 2014 Illinois Governor’s race is starting to ramp up, as former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley threw his hat into the ring this week. If state Attorney General Lisa Madigan also decides to run, the incumbent Pat Quinn could end up with a fierce three-way battle in the Democratic primary. And that’s if Quinn decides to run for re-election, which he has not publicly announced yet. There are also several Republican candidates already in the race, including state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Senator Kirk Dillard.
Since Governor Quinn has proven himself to be one of the most pro-pardon governors in the country, I have recently heard from clients who are nervous about what will happen if a new governor takes over in 2014. Since 2009, Quinn has steadily worked his way through the backlog of clemency petitions left over from the Blagojevich administration. By regularly issuing decisions and granting those to individuals who have paid their debt to society and shown rehabilitation, he shows that he is respectfully reviewing the requests. Would Governor Daley, Madigan, Rutherford or Dillard act similarly? Can we point to anything in their experience that indicates a predilection to approve or deny pardons? Would any of them go the route of Blagojevich or Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and ignore the responsibility entirely?
The simple (but yes, unsatisfying) answer: we just don’t know. Granting pardons is one of the few powers that is entirely up to the discretion of the chief executive. Furthermore, on both the state and federal level, historically it has not been a partisan issue. You cannot predict how a leader will act on pardons based on his party affiliation.
Because of the uncertainty over who will take over the governor’s job, I have heard from a few individuals who are wondering if they should hurry and submit a pardon petition immediately, with the hopes it will come before Quinn while he’s still in office. My answer is that your best chance for receiving a pardon will be if you have shown years of productive rehabilitation and have taken steps to get your life back on track. If that’s not the case, it will be difficult to get your petition granted. The best time to submit a pardon is when your life is in the right place for it, not based on who is in office at the time. If you would like to discuss the merits of your particular case further, give me a call for a consultation.
In a pretty scathing article, the Associated Press recently reported that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has not issued any pardon decisions since he took office. Worse still, he hasn’t even appointed anyone to his pardon advisory board. He’s refusing to even give the appearance that pardon applications from people in his state are being respectfully reviewed.
Walker’s anti-pardon policy echoes what we recently saw here in Illinois. Our last Governor, Rod Blagojevich, failed to issue any pardon decisions during his six years in office. The comparison serves as a reminder that clemency is not a partisan issue—Walker is a Republican and Blagojevich is a Democrat. Fortunately, Blagojevich’s successor, Governor Pat Quinn, has been steadily working his way through the backlog of pardon petitions in Illinois. He’s granted hundreds of executive clemency petitions so far. This makes him one of the most proactive governors in the country to issue pardons, along with California Governor Jerry Brown and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe.
I applaud the AP for calling the public’s attention to Walker’s failing. There are currently more than 1,400 pardon requests sitting on his desk. Many of these requests come from individuals who long ago served their time and are trying to be productive citizens. The AP interviewed one Wisconsin man who’s been offered a job contingent upon receiving a pardon. The man is currently having trouble making ends meet, and is upset at Walker’s stance. He told the AP:
“Is that the plan? For all of us to fail? To have people leeching off the state? For me to lose my house? [Walker's] slogan is we've got to move Wisconsin forward. Well, you know what, Mr. Walker? I need to move forward. I'm not asking for a handout. All I need is a signature from him. Do something. Don't just sit there."
Yesterday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn released his first batch of clemency decisions for 2013. On this Easter weekend, 222 petitioners will be receiving their decisions, with 87 of them being granted. The decisions came on petitions that were filed between 2005 through 2012. The vast majority of executive clemency approvals come in the form of pardons with authorization to expunge their criminal record.
With this latest batch, Governor Quinn has now acted on 2,459 petitions since taking office, granting 929 and denying 1,530. It’s all part of an ongoing effort by the Governor to overcome the backlog of clemency petitions left over from former Governor Rod Blagojevich.
At the Bryant Chavez Law Office, we would like to congratulate those that get to start the next chapter of their lives with a clean slate! We would also like to commend Governor Quinn for taking action to help them start over. Unlike some other governors, Governor Quinn has proven that he is willing to grant a fresh start to those who have earned it.
The White House announced Friday that President Obama has granted pardons to 17 individuals convicted of non-violent federal crimes. As the Washington Post reports, the successful petitioners “were sentenced years if not decades ago for such minor federal offenses as falsely altering a U.S. money order, possessing an unregistered firearm, embezzling bank funds and acquiring food stamps without authorization.”
Pardons on a federal level do not expunge a crime; the crime remains on the individual’s record. However, the pardon is an act of forgiveness from the President. Receiving a presidential pardon can remove barriers to certain career, financial, and other opportunities. Presidents can issue pardons for incarcerated individuals that include a commutation of sentence, but historically the vast majority of pardons issued have been for individuals who have already served their sentences.
Much like how Governor Quinn receives recommendations from the Illinois Prisoner Review Board that aid in making his state-level pardon decisions, President Obama has the federal Office of the Pardon Attorney that reviews applications. However, in the end it is entirely up to the chief executive whether to approve or deny any given petition. The “Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses” is an authority of the President specifically stated in Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.
These are the first pardon decisions Obama has issued in his second term as President. Previously, he granted nine in December 2010, eight in May 2011 and five in November 2011. Although this total of 39 is much lower than his predecessors—George W. Bush granted 189 pardons in his presidency, while Bill Clinton granted 396—it doesn’t necessarily indicate that acts of clemency will remain rare in his second term. It’s true that presidential pardons can be tricky political territory. Ford’s notorious pardon of Nixon was a public-relations disaster from which he never recovered, and Clinton’s pardon of financier/fugitive/Clinton-campaign-donor Marc Rich was heavily criticized. But so far all of Obama’s decisions have been non-controversial and have received very little media attention. Without a looming re-election battle, perhaps Obama will work his way through more pardon applications in the next few years. It’s a good sign that this first batch comes less than two months into his second term.