News - Capital University Law School

When Pardons Are in the News, So Is Professor Kobil

9/5/2017  -  Professor Dan Kobil knew that he should stay close to the phone when news broke that President Trump was considering a pardon for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Prof. Kobil, one of the nation’s leading experts on the power of executive clemency, is a go-to source for journalists and opinion-page editors when the pardon power is in the news.

And the Arpaio pardon, which occurred in late August, was no exception. Prof. Kobil was contacted by Politifact, Buzzfeed, Law360, HBO’s Vice News, and was also asked by the American Constitution Society to write a blog post about the pardon shortly before it was issued. His ACS piece was quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
He also published an opinion piece in the Columbus Dispatch. In his op-ed, he argued that according to the Supreme Court, acceptance of a pardon implies that the recipient is guilty of the crimes for which he has been convicted so Arpaio cannot plausibly claim to have been vindicated by the pardon.

“I think it is important for legal scholars to enrich the public debate and speak with non-academics whenever we get the opportunity,” said Prof. Kobil. “So I’m more than happy to comment when a reporter or editor calls.”

Early in his career at Capital, Prof. Kobil published a much-cited piece in the University of Texas Law Review, The Quality of Mercy Strained: Wresting the Pardoning Power from the King (1991). He was among the first commentators to argue for greater use of the pardoning power to remedy injustices in our legal system.

“Sometimes, the legal system is not perfect,” said Prof. Kobil. “When the system misfires in an individual case, executive clemency is often the last tool in place to make sure that justice is served.”

He followed up the Texas Law Review article with several law review pieces regarding other aspects of clemency, particularly in the context of the death penalty.

“Surprisingly, reporters seem to like reading law review articles,” said Kobil. He has been interviewed and quoted by many of the national media players, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and CNN, as well as most major Ohio newspapers and broadcasters.

His take on clemency has also been sought out by policy makers such as members of Congress, the attorneys who advise governors, and even the advisors to one president. Kobil recounts that “shortly after Barack Obama took office, I was excited to get a call from the Office of White House Counsel asking how, in a perfect world, I would suggest that they reform the way the pardon power is used. I gave them about an hour’s worth of suggestions, which I’m not sure ever saw the light of day—though I was pleased to see that President Obama issued more commutations of excessive sentences than any other chief executive.”