Throughout his tenure as Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn has truly been a champion in reviewing and deciding Petitions for Executive Clemency. In total, Governor Quinn has reviewed a total of 3,962 petitions, granting 1,418 and denying 2,544. Just this past Christmas Eve (December 24, 2014) he decided a total of 604 clemency petitions, granting 179 of them and denying the remaining 425. Prior to that, on the eve of Thanksgiving, Governor Quinn granted 126 petitions and denied 185. It is my sincere hope that we see at least one more batch of clemency petition decisions prior to Governor Quinn leaving office on January 12, 2015.
Please join the Honorable Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and me at this year’s Expungement Summit on June 7, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at The Living Word Christian Center, 7600 West Roosevelt Road, Forest Park, IL. This is a full-service annual event where people with criminal records are able to speak with on-site volunteer attorneys about expungements, sealings, petitions for executive clemency and certificates of rehabilitation. There will also be on-site child support services, job training, housing and community resources, identity theft information and much more. Members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board will also be present to discuss the pardon process for those who do not qualify for either expungement or sealing. This event is truly a wealth of information! Please contact the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County at 312-603-5200 for more information, or you may visit www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org. I look forward to meeting you at this year’s Summit!
On April 18, 2014 Governor Pat Quinn granted 43 clemency petitions and denied 65, thus further reducing the backlog of petitions he inherited from former Governor Rod Blagojevich. The offenses for which clemency was granted ranged from theft to robbery to manufacture and/or delivery of a controlled substance and the offense dates ranged from approximately 1969 to 2003. The bulk of these granted clemency petitions were filed in mid-2009 but some some dated back to 2007 and others were filed as recently as 2014.
Petitions for Executive Clemency (with Authorization to Expunge) are almost inevitably a last resort for people with certain criminal convictions on their records. Although the format of the petition itself is somewhat flexible, it is most certainly in your best interest to contact an attorney experienced in this field to discuss methodology and strategy. I would be happy to speak with anyone needing assistance in this area!
In light of the recent attention President Obama has given to low-level drug offenders who were unduly penalized under previous overly harsh drug conviction sentences, I have been researching the federal executive clemency process to see how it differs from that in our state. I am pleased to report that the process of obtaining federal executive clemency is not that different from the process here in Illinois.
The United States Office of the Pardon Attorney assists the President in the exercise of his executive clemency powers, whereas here in Illinois the executive clemency power lies with the Governor, as assisted by our state’s Prisoner Review Board. The previously cited United States Department of Justice website contains forms for both pardons and commutations of sentences, rules and standards to be applied to the consideration of these federal executive clemency applications. As is the case in Illinois, there is no mandate that the President must consider a Petition for Executive Clemency within a certain period of time, if at all. Moreover, a granting of federal executive clemency is considered to be an extraordinary remedy governed by the principles of equity, just as it is in our state.
As mentioned above, my research into the federal executive clemency process reveals that it is not so different than that employed by our own state. Basically, a petitioner must answer some fundamental questions concerning him/herself, give a thorough explanation of the legal issues surrounding his/her conviction(s), divulge any/all criminal history, and give one or more reasons he/she is seeking such extraordinary relief through the federal executive clemency process.
Three days ago, on October 11, 2013, the Chicago Tribune reported that Governor Quinn recently granted 65 requests for executive clemency and denied 124 petitions. This brings the total number of petitions for executive clemency Quinn has acted upon since taking office to 2,648. To the best of my knowledge, Governor Quinn is still acting on clemency petitions that date back to 2009. Once again, I applaud Quinn for continuing to decide these all-important petitions that serve to give an individual his or her life back but I urge him to do everything in his power to speed the process up as there are many deserving candidates who are still awaiting a decision.
Great news for individuals burdened by felony criminal records: the Illinois Criminal Identification Act (20 ILCS 2630/5.2 et seq.) has recently been amended by Public Act 098-0142 which adds multiple Class 3 and Class 4 offenses not previously eligible for relief by sealing to now be eligible for sealing through the court system! Prior to this change, only three (3) felonies (all Class 4) were eligible for relief through sealing: possession of a controlled substance (PCS), possession of cannabis (marijuana) and prostitution. Now, in its expanded form, the Illinois Criminal Identification Act allows for the following offenses to be eligible for sealing:
• Class 4 felony convictions for prostitution, possession of cannabis (marijuana), possession of a controlled substance, theft, retail theft, deceptive practices, forgery and possession of burglary tools; and
• Class 3 felony convictions for theft, retail theft, deceptive practices, forgery and possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance.
I am pleased to announce that this past Friday, March 29, 2013, Illinois State Governor Pat Quinn released decisions on two hundred twenty-two (222) additional Petitions for Executive Clemency, granting eighty-seven (87) pardons in total and denying requests for clemency on another one hundred thirty-five (135) petitions. These recent decisions were for clemency petitions submitted as early as 2005 and as late as 2012 but there are still many petitions contained within that date range that remain undecided. As I’ve said before, I applaud Gov. Quinn for his attempts to minimize the backlog of petitions he inherited from the previous administration, but there remains a significant build-up of old petitions yet to be acted upon. To date, I have not received decisions on multiple Petitions for Executive Clemency with Authorization to Expunge for clients dating back to 2009. While I understand there are numerous other responsibilities Governor Quinn handles on a daily basis I implore this administration to more quickly act upon outstanding clemency petitions. Sadly, there are many people in our society who are being hindered by their past (sometimes decades old) mistakes and are so deserving of a second chance in the form of a pardon with authorization to expunge. Please help us help them, Governor Quinn!
In keeping with his usual tradition of deciding Petitions for Executive Clemency just before a major holiday, Governor Quinn granted 81 pardons on November 21, 2012 and denied 88. According to sources at the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, all of these decisions were for petitions filed between 2005 and 2010, thus further diminishing the backlog of these petitions never addressed by former Governor Blagojevich. I certainly commend the present Governor for reviewing and deciding these important petitions, however, I’m curious to know what else can be done to expedite the process more. I had previously heard that the Governor’s Office was contemplating outsourcing the first review stage of clemency petitions to pro bono attorneys; while this would undoubtedly speed the process along, I would hope that substantive training would be required of all attorneys being used for this first-stage review. To my knowledge this proposal has not been implemented and I am attempting to discover if it has been temporarily or permanently tabled.
It’s time for the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s annual Expungement Summit! The event will take place on June 2nd, 2012, once again at the Apostolic Church of God located at 6230 South Dorchester Avenue, Chicago, Illinois between 8:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Please join me there and remember to bring your Chicago RAP sheet (assuming you were arrested in Chicago), which can be ordered from the Chicago Police Department, Access and Review Department, at 3510 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., for $16.00. Further instructions and information can be found on the official event flyer posted on the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s website.
I look forward to meeting you!
As I’ve previously discussed in various blog entries, one of the primary reasons a person retains me to file a Petition to Expunge, Petition to Seal, or Petition for Executive Clemency with Authorization to Expunge is to obtain new or better employment. Obviously the client’s criminal background is presenting a significant hurdle to be overcome with regards to landing a job offer, securing an interview, or even keeping a present job. Also, a person’s criminal record can present problems to be dealt with in the housing arena. Once retained by a client, I am happy to explain how we intend to pursue relief from that client’s criminal record pursuant to the Illinois Criminal Identification Act to a prospective employer or landlord. Sometimes an explanation of the processes by which the client is able to clear his or her criminal record will be sufficient to allow an employer, landlord or other entity to remain patient with that client while he or she works with me to draft and file necessary type of petition to obtain relief from his or her criminal record. The text below represents a redacted version of one such letter written to a current client’s prospective employer. If a new or existing boss or landlord has asked you to provide similar explaining Illinois criminal records law please contact me to discuss the details of your situation and how I can draft something to hopefully buy YOU some time while your petition is pending before a court or, alternatively, the Illinois Governor.
“January 23, 2012