Legal tip of the day.

Perhaps you may have violated some law and are concerned about doing jail time. But on the upside, maybe you’re also well-connected and know a higher-up who’ll pardon you before you’re dragged into court.

Think twice about accepting it. In Burdick v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1915 clearly stated that a pardon “carries an imputation of guilt” and further that an “acceptance of it a confession of it.”

In the 105 years since then, that principle has not been overturned or revised. It’s worth noting its subsequent relevance. In 1974 when President Gerald Ford was widely criticized for pardoning his predecessor Richard Milhouse Nixon for obstruction of justice. Ford carried a portion of the Burdick decision tucked in his wallet. Ford also referred to the case in his written post-pardon statement to the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Burdick was good law in 1915 and 1974, and it’s good law today.

Michael Wheeler


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