Deborah Leff was appointed Pardon Attorney at the United States Department of Justice on November 2, 2014, having served as Acting Pardon Attorney since April 30, 2014. The Office of the Pardon Attorney is responsible for reviewing and investigating applications to the President of the United States for executive clemency for federal criminal offenses, drafting the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General to the President for the disposition of each clemency application, and advising Departmental leadership on matters related to executive clemency.
Ms. Leff initially joined the Department of Justice immediately after graduating from law school, working as a Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division. She returned to the Department in 2010 to become first Deputy Senior Counselor and then Acting Senior Counselor for the Access to Justice Initiative (ATJ). Prior to coming to ATJ, Ms. Leff held a variety of leadership positions in the public, private and non-profit sectors. She was President and member of the Board of Directors of the Public Welfare Foundation, a national foundation based in Washington, D.C., focusing on criminal and juvenile justice, health reform, and workers' rights. She has also served as Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum; President and CEO of Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization; and President of the Joyce Foundation. During much of the1980s and early 1990s, Ms. Leff was Senior Producer at ABC News Nightline, World News Tonight, and 20/20, overseeing coverage that won numerous national awards, including the Emmy and the DuPont awards. She is the former Chair of the Board of Directors of StoryCorps and previously served on the Board of Directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, CARE and the Children's Defense Fund. She also chaired the Midwest Rhodes Scholars Selection Committee.
Ms. Leff received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where she was named a University Scholar. She earned her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School and received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Lake Forest College.