Friday, November 14, 2014
How to Take Back a Punishment and Be Vindicated
If somebody is wrongfully adjudicated guilty of a crime, the executive can pardon the accused, and the legislative can offer restitution in payment for what has been suffered.
But what if someone is in the middle of a lawsuit to reclaim his property, and the legislature just passes a law that the spoils go to one of the parties to the litigation? I don't have direct evidence of this myself, but I have heard that something like that happened to the goods belonging to Jean and Pierre Laffite. Before their lawsuit could come to trial, a law was passed to the effect that the goods belonged to Patterson. Is that constitutional?
It's good to have checks and balances. And yet.... this ability to undo what has already been done can be misused. And sometimes a person does not want a pardon for a crime he has not committed. He wants vindication, instead.
Notice that when President Madison pardoned all the Baratarians who served in the Battle of New Orleans, Jean Laffite did not claim that pardon, because he believed he was not guilty of a crime.
And when Andrew Jackson was forced to pay $1000.00 as a fine for being in contempt of court, for having Judge Hall incarcerated for granting a writ of habeas corpus during Jackson's imposition of martial law, Jackson never asked for a pardon. Instead, toward the end of his life, he got Congress to pass a law that the fine was to be paid back to him.
Why? Was it because he needed the money? Or was he trying to make a point? According to the book by Matthew Warshauer, Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law it was because: “He viewed the return of his fine as a larger statement about the legitimacy of violating the constitution and civil liberties in times of national emergency.”
What can we learn from this? If you get in trouble, but you want to be vindicated, don't go for a pardon. Get an act of Congress to refund your money.