The Difficulties of Democratic Mercy
26 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2015 Last revised: 27 Mar 2015
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.
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