Toussie’s Pardon *Was* Signed, Sealed, Delivered, and Probably Accepted
posted by Brian Kalt
At his invaluable Pardon Power blog, Prof. Ruckman has done some very helpful reporting that, to my mind, strengthens Isaac Toussie’s case immensely. The professor and I have tangled over pardon revocability in the text and comments here and here. His latest post reveals the following:
1) The President signed a formal pardon warrant, containing Toussie’s name, which expressly states that he was “hereby granted a full and unconditional pardon.”
2) That document was sealed and transmitted to Department of Justice (DOJ) with directions to notify the grantees.
3) The Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) called each grantee (or his counsel) via telephone and told him that he’d been pardoned by the President.
4) Then, the DOJ issued a press release that informed the world (including Toussie) that the grants had been made.
5) There is no issue about whether Toussie accepted the pardon – he had asked for it and it was granted without conditions.
It is well worth noting that, when the OPA makes these phone calls, the OPA has never informed grantees that they “will be” pardoned “as soon as they get the individual warrant” (which may take weeks to arrive). The OPA always tell them they “have been” pardoned. No contingencies.
So far, the president’s argument has been that the pardons were still in some state of preparation–not yet a pardon, in essence–and thus could legally be halted. (Ruckman has labeled this argument foolish, and contended that pardons are revocable even when completed.)
Given that the facts Ruckman reports show that (1) the president signed a document saying he hereby gave a full and unconditional pardon to Toussie; (2) that that document was sealed; and (3) that the Office of the Pardon Attorney notified Toussie (or his counsel) that Toussie had been pardoned (not that he would be), I think it is fair to say that for all intents and purposes, this pardon had been signed, sealed, and delivered.
One might argue that Toussie hadn’t accepted the pardon, but I reject that conclusion given that he had gotten exactly what he applied for with no conditions attached (the offer was his, and acceptance was the president’s), and also given case law undermining the notion that pardons must be accepted. I also would be surprised if when Toussie or his counsel got the phone call, they didn’t accept it.
I do not agree with Ruckman that a pardon, once granted, can legally be revoked. But I do agree with him that the president’s argument in this case–that the Toussie pardon had not yet been granted–is foolish. I expect that there are a lot of people following this story whose thoughts paralleled mine. First, upon hearing that Toussie pardon had been revoked, I thought “what? you can’t revoke a pardon.” Then, upon hearing the claim that the pardon hadn’t been processed yet, I thought “well, maybe this wasn’t a pardon.” Now, upon hearing that it had been signed, sealed, delivered, and presumably accepted, I’m back to “what? you can’t revoke a pardon.” I hope that Toussie litigates this and that the court settles this once and for all.
Of course, there is still the matter of Ruckman’s argument that completed pardons can be revoked. His argument is backed up by examples that, while unlitigated and mostly old, are nevertheless numerous and undeniably there. (And, to Ruckman’s credit, they shoot down the callow media reports that Bush’s move was unprecedented.) If Toussie loses this case, that history will be why. But personally, for reasons I have posted already, I expect other arguments to prevail, and that the history to be relied upon by the dissenters, if any.