Seasonal Clemency Revisited: An Empirical Analysis
White House Studies, Forthcoming
28 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2013
Date Written: January , 2008
While the notion of 'Christmas pardons' has been around for some time, there has been almost no empirical research on whether federal executive clemency is in any way patterned in a manner that would legitimize the notion of 'Christmas' or even 'seasonal' pardons. Furthermore, previous research on clemency from 1789 to 1933 suggests the months of May and June have been the favored months when it comes to the granting of presidential pardons. This analysis explores 'seasonal clemency' in monthly data from January of 1931 to November of 2008. The 12 presidents covered have granted 10,626 individual pardons across 19 four year terms. The data show the largest number of pardons (2,453) has been granted in the month of December (more than two times the figure associated with the second highest month) and it is especially clear that more recent presidents (including George W. Bush) have skewed grants of clemency toward this part of the year. Having presented the data, some discussion is provided regarding possible explanations for these trends and troubling ramifications for federal executive clemency in the United States.
Keywords: president, pardon, commutation of sentence, clemency, pardon power, pardons, executive clemency
JEL Classification: K10, K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation