The Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) dates from the Act of March 3, 1865, which created the Office of the Pardon Clerk in the Office of the Attorney General. By the Act of March 3, 1891, the Office of the Attorney in Charge of Pardons, now known as the Office of the Pardon Attorney, was substituted for the Pardon Clerk.
OPA currently includes seven permanent attorney positions: the Pardon Attorney, the Deputy Pardon Attorney, and five staff attorneys. The mission of the Pardon Attorney is to assist the President in the exercise of his constitutional pardoning power by providing him with the best information available on which to base a fair and just decision in cases in which applicants seek clemency.
The major functions of OPA are to:
- Receive and review all petitions requesting executive clemency for federal offenses, conduct the necessary investigations, and prepare recommendations to the President for the review and signature of the Deputy Attorney General.
- Provide policy guidance for the conduct of clemency proceedings and the standards for decision.
- Respond to inquiries from clemency applicants, their representatives, public groups, Members of Congress, various federal, state, and local officials, and others concerning clemency petitions and the clemency process.
- Maintain contacts with Department of Justice officials, the Counsel to the President, and other government officials to advise them on clemency matters as requested.