Office of the Pardon Attorney

Office of the Pardon Attorney

Meet the Director

Meet the Pardon Attorney

Robert A. Zauzmer
Pardon Attorney

Robert A. Zauzmer was named Acting Pardon Attorney on February 1, 2016 and then appointed by the Attorney General as Pardon Attorney on Monday, September 26, 2016. Mr. Zauzmer served as an Assistant United States Attorney and the Chief of Appeals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as well as being a key player in the Department’s implementation of both the 2013 Smart on Crime initiative and the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s retroactive sentence reductions.


On April 23, 2014, the Department of Justice, at the behest of the President, announced the Clemency Initiative, inviting petitions for commutation of sentence from nonviolent offenders who, among other criteria, likely would have received substantially lower sentences if convicted of the same offenses today.  As of January 13, 2017, the President has granted commutation of sentence to 1,176 individuals, and it is anticipated that more will be granted prior to the end of the Administration.

Total commutations during Obama Administration

As expected, the announcement of the Clemency Initiative resulted in an influx of petitions far larger than that received during any previous Administration – including thousands of petitions involving crimes clearly not falling under the initiative, such as murder, terrorism, sex crimes, public corruption, and financial fraud.

Notwithstanding a record number of overall petitions, the Department took steps to ensure that petitions submitted under the Clemency Initiative would be identified, prioritized, and sent to the White House during President Obama’s tenure.  To accomplish this, the Department streamlined its procedures and prioritized petitions from individuals convicted of drug trafficking offenses over the thousands of petitions involving other crimes for which sentencing law has not changed.

At the end of August 2016, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates announced that the Department would review and provide a recommendation to the White House on every petition from a drug offender then in the Department’s possession.1  That number turned out to be approximately 6,195 petitions.2   In the four months since that date, the Department has met that commitment by reviewing and providing a recommendation on all 6,195 petitions, as well as many hundreds received after August 31, 2016, that were identified as particularly meritorious. In addition, the Department succeeded in reviewing all petitions submitted in drug cases by November 30, 2016, by inmates serving life sentences.  From the start of the Clemency Initiative on April 23, 2014 through January 13, 2017, the Department made recommendations to the White House on approximately 16,776 petitions received from drug offenders.

Approximately 7,961 commutation petitions remain pending in the Office of the Pardon Attorney as of January 12, 2017.  Of those, approximately 4,541 are from offenders convicted of crimes other than a drug crime, while approximately 3,420 are from drug offenders but were received after August 31, 2016.3   An additional 904 petitions were submitted from petitioners who have already been released from prison and seek a remission of fines or other relief, or are likely moot.  Consistent with historic practice, these remaining petitions will be processed by the Office of the Pardon Attorney and addressed by future Administrations.

Total Petitions Pending in the Office of the Pardon Attorney
as of January 13, 2017 (Estimates)

Pending Petitions from Drug Offenders Received Before or Mailed By 08/31/16


Pending Petitions from Drug Offenders Received After 08/31/16


Pending Petitions from Non-Drug Offenders (Murder, Terrorism, Sex Offenses, Fraud, etc.) – All Pending


Total Pending Petitions



1 This date was well after the original deadline communicated to advocacy groups representing prospective petitioners:  On March 21, 2016, close to two years after the Initiative was announced, the Pardon Attorney advised the advocacy groups that it was advisable to submit all petitions by April 30, 2016, in order to assure time for full consideration during the present Administration.

2 The total number of drug petitions pending as of August 31, 2016, was determined by cross-checking the records of the Office of the Pardon Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Given differences in how the two agencies keep records, this number is approximate and may be subject to change.

3 The Office of the Pardon Attorney applied a “grace period” and considered all petitions received by mail by September 15, 2016, to assure that all petitions mailed in August were considered. 


The Office of the Pardon Attorney assists the President in the exercise of executive clemency. Under the Constitution, the President's clemency power extends only to federal criminal offenses. All requests for executive clemency for federal offenses are directed to the Pardon Attorney for investigation and review. The Pardon Attorney prepares the Department's recommendation to the President for final disposition of each application. Executive clemency may take several forms, including pardon, commutation of sentence, remission of fine or restitution, and reprieve.


The Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) welcomes correspondence, by mail or email, regarding clemency matters. Due to current resource limitations, we do not respond to every piece of correspondence that is submitted to this office. However, every submission is given appropriate attention. Please read an explanation here.


Robert A. Zauzmer
Pardon Attorney


Office of the Pardon Attorney
Attorney 202-616-6070

Grant Date Total grants
during Obama
Nov 21, 2011 1
Dec 19, 2013 9
Apr 15, 2014 10
Dec 15, 2014 13
Dec 17, 2014 21
Mar 31, 2015 43
Jul 13, 2015 89
Dec 18, 2015 184
Mar 30, 2016 248
May 5, 2016 306
Jun 3, 2016 348
Aug 3, 2016 562
Aug 30, 2016 672
Oct 6, 2016 774
Oct 27, 2016 872
Nov 4, 2016 944
Nov 22, 2016 1,023
Dec 19, 2016 1,176