- Issue 2 - February 2019, Volume 46

The Court Can’t Even Handle Me Right Now: The Arpaio Pardon and Its Effect on the Scope of Presidential Pardons

Article by: Tyler Brown

46 PEPP. L. REV. 331 (2019)

The Constitution grants the president the power to pardon individuals for offenses against the United States. Courts have interpreted this power broadly, and the American public has historically accepted its use, even in the face of several controversial pardons over the last five decades. However, after President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio—a former Arizona sheriff who was held in criminal contempt of court for continuing to illegally detain suspected undocumented immigrants—scholars, activists, and political figures questioned whether this pardon was unconstitutional.

This Comment discusses the Court’s interpretation of the pardoning power, controversial pardons in modern history, and the details of the Arpaio pardon and the public’s response. After comparing the Arpaio pardon to previous pardons, analyzing constitutional arguments, and laying out the legal and political impact the pardon may have on the Trump administration, this Comment ultimately concludes that the Arpaio pardon is constitutionally suspect, but the current Court is not likely to make any changes to the pardoning power’s broad interpretation.

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