The Obama administration says attorneys for federal inmates should move more quickly in filing petitions for presidential clemency, reminding them that “the clock is running” on the Obama presidency, USA Today reports. The new urgency from the Justice Department comes more than a year into a program intended to shorten the sentences to federal inmates who would have received lower sentences under current law. That initiative was coupled with Clemency Project 2014, an outside consortium of lawyers working on those cases. The project filed only 31 petitions in its first year, leading to criticism that the process is moving too slowly.
“If there is one message I want you to take away today, it’s this: Sooner is better,” U.S. Pardon Attorney Deborah Leff told volunteer lawyers last week. “Delaying is not helpful.” Leff is the Justice Department official who provides recommendations on commutations and pardons to the president, who under the Constitution has the power to shorten sentences for federal crimes and to restore other civil rights. Obama has granted fewer than 0.3 percent of commutation petitions during his presidency, which has seen a record 16,911 petitions through May. Forty-four percent were denied, 12 percent were closed for other reasons, and 44 percent remain pending.