DOJ Fights To Keep Pardon Denials Secret
By Andrew Ramonas | March 29, 2022 5:08 pm

The Justice Department is fighting to keep secret the names of 9,200 individuals denied clemency by President George W. Bush, Politico’s Under The Radar blog reported Monday.

Last year, a judge for the U.S. District Court for D.C. ruled that the Office of Pardon Attorney, a DOJ component, must disclose to former Washington Post reporter George Lardner Jr. the name of thousands of individuals whose applications for pardons and commutations were denied. But the Justice Department appealed.

“Pardon and commutation applicants have a substantial privacy interest in nondisclosure of the fact that they have unsuccessfully sought clemency,” the DOJ wrote in a brief opposing Lardner’s request. “The substantial privacy interest of the clemency applicants outweighs the negligible public interest in disclosure of their names.”

Although the DOJ is fighting against disclosure of the complete list, it has verified the names of pardon applicants and the standing of their applications, including denials. The DOJ argued that releasing all of the names would be an invasion of privacy and could harm the applicants.

“Disclosure of the fact that individual offenders have unsuccessfully sought pardons or commutations unquestionably will re-stigmatize the applicants and draw renewed attention to their offenses, thereby harming their prospects for successful rehabilitation and reintegration into the community, as well as possibly subjecting them to the risk of retaliation,” the DOJ wrote.

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