The Difficulties of Democratic Mercy

26 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2015 Last revised: 27 Mar 2015

See all articles by Aziz Z. Huq

Aziz Z. Huq

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: March 11, 2015


This response to Dean Martha Minow's Jorde lecture examines the conditions under which "democratic mercy" is feasible. In the U.S. context, several democratic institutions have either wholesale or retail power to mitigate civil or criminal liability. Rich experience under the U.S. Constitution, however, suggests that it is extraordinarily difficult to institutionalize such official forbearance — especially on democratic soil — and especially the supervening political economy generates the need for forgiveness. Rather than seeking for redemptive reforms through democratic process, the institutional installation of merciful discretion often requires a dispensation from, and limits to, the otherwise democratic order.

Suggested Citation

Huq, Aziz Z., The Difficulties of Democratic Mercy (March 11, 2015). California Law Review, Forthcoming, 2016, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 522, Available at SSRN: or

Aziz Z. Huq (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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