Robert Zauzmer, a Philadelphia federal prosecutor, has been named acting pardon attorney for the Department of Justice, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Zauzmer, who oversees appeals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will review executive clemency requests sent to President Obama. On Zauzmer’s recommendation, Obama can decide whether to pardon or commute sentences for inmates serving time for federal crimes. In 2013, Obama asked the Department of Justice to prioritize clemency requests from inmates serving long sentences under policies that under today’s laws would have resulted in much shorter sentences. So far, 187 commutations have been granted.
In the last eight years, the office has also received 18,924 requests to commute a sentence. Of those, 9,115 still need to be reviewed. Zauzmer, who has worked in the federal prosecutor’s office since 1990, also is a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Zauzmer has helped implement policies to reduce lengthy sentences, testified before the federal commission that issues sentencing guidelines, and trained prosecutors on the ins and outs of retroactively reducing drug sentences. Zauzmer said “disproportionately lengthy” sentences for low-level criminals had long troubled him.