Introduction of the District of Columbia Home Rule Clemency Act of 2016by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton
Posted on 2016-01-06
of the district of columbia
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, today, I introduce the District of Columbia
Home Rule Clemency Act of 2016, a bill that would give the District of
Columbia exclusive authority, like states, to grant clemency to
offenders prosecuted under its local laws.
While D.C. law appears to give the mayor authority to grant clemency (D.C. Code 1-301.76), it is currently the opinion of the Department of Justice that the President, and not the Mayor, has the authority to issue clemency for most local offenses prosecuted under D.C. law, particularly felonies prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney in the D.C. Superior Court. Under current practice, clemency petitions for D.C. convictions, like federal convictions, are submitted to the DOJ for the President's consideration.
Whether or not the DOJ's view is correct, my bill would remove all doubt that the District, and not the President, has the authority to issue executive clemency. The District, like states, should have full control of its local criminal justice system, the most basic responsibility of local government. Since the D.C. Council has the authority to enact local laws, District officials are in the best position to grant clemency for local law convictions. My bill would provide all clemency authority not currently reserved to the Mayor under D.C. Code 1-301.76 to the District government and would give D.C. the discretion to establish its own clemency system.
This bill is an important step in establishing further autonomy for the District in its own local affairs. I urge my colleagues to support this measure.