Veteran prosecutor and judge Ronald L. Rodgers has been named by President Bush to head the Justice Department’s pardon office, a unit that has suffered under substantial backlogs after its previous leader was accused of mismanagement and of making racially offensive statements, the Washington Post reports. Rodgers inherited nearly 2,000 requests for pardons and commutations of prison sentences in the waning months of the president’s administration, a time when pressure to exercise the clemency power intensifies.
“If there’s ever been a time when the pardon attorney should have an impact, this is it,” said P.S. Ruckman Jr., an associate professor at Rock Valley College in Illinois. A Justice department spokesman said the pardon office is on a “record-setting pace” for receiving clemency petitions this year. About half a dozen lawyers assist Rodgers. Lawyers who represent clients seeking pardons and scholars who research clemency do not expect Bush, who has granted few such requests as president and previously as Texas governor, to do an about-face during his last months in office. H. Abbie Erler, a professor at Kenyon College, pointed out that Rodgers’s record as a former military official and investigator in the narcotics area may not make him amenable to granting mercy to convicted felons. Bush has pardoned 157 people and commuted the sentences of six more since 2001.