Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Introduces Bill to Give D.C. the Same Power as States and Territories to Grant Clemency

Mar 28, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced a bill that would give the District of Columbia exclusive authority, like states and U.S. territories, to grant clemency for criminal convictions under its laws.  The District of Columbia Home Rule Clemency Act is part of Norton’s “Free and Equal D.C.” series.  While D.C. law appears to give the mayor authority to grant clemency (D.C. Code 1–301.76), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has opined that the mayor’s clemency authority, if any, is very narrow, and that the President of the United States has authority to grant clemency in all D.C. criminal cases and exclusive authority for D.C. felonies.  Under current practice, clemency petitions for D.C. convictions, like federal convictions, are submitted to DOJ for the President’s consideration.  In Norton’s bill, clemency includes pardons, reprieves, or commutations of sentence.

In her introductory statement, Norton said “The District, like states and territories, 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…This bill is an important step in establishing further autonomy for the District in its own local affairs.”

Norton’s full introductory statement is below.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the District of Columbia Home Rule Clemency Act

March 28, 2017

Today, I introduce the District of Columbia Home Rule Clemency Act, a bill that would give the District of Columbia exclusive authority, like the states and territories, to grant clemency to offenders prosecuted under its local laws.

While District 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 (DOJ) 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 for local offenses.  The District, like states and territories, 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.

###