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Federal Judge Rules Florida’s Clemency Process Unconstitutional

February 3rd, 2018 by Jake Stofan

A federal Judge has ruled Florida’s clemency process unconstitutional.



Florida changed its rights restoration process after Rick Scott took office in 2011.  It now requires felons to wait at least five years before applying. Then most must appear in person before the Board of Executive Clemency for approval.

Only 400 or so cases are heard each year. The backlog of applicants is now more than 10,000.

1.5 million felons in the state are eligible to apply.


“And that number increases by 50 plus thousand every year,” said Human Rights Attorney Mark Schlakman.

Now, a federal judge says Florida’s clemency process is unconstitutional, violating the 14th amendment.

In his ruling Judge Mark Walker said felon’s rights have been locked away by the state, and the state has swallowed the key.


“It’s a recognition that the numbers of people that have been able to regain their civil rights over the course of the past several years is so startlingly small that it prompted the court to act,” said Schlakman.

The judge didn’t recommend how to fix the system, instead he asked the State and the nine ex-convicts who brought the lawsuit to come up with recommendations by the middle of the month.

The Governor’s Office issued a statement, saying in part, “The Governor believes that convicted felons should show that they can lead a life free of crime and be accountable to their victims and our communities.”

If approved, a constitutional amendment appearing on the November ballot will automatically restore felon’s right to vote and end any legal fight.

Desmond Meade heads the group Floridians for Fair Democracy, which pushed the amendment.

“95% of the country agrees with this, but Florida is the outlier,” said Meade.

It would restore the rights of an estimated 1.3 million felons in the state.

The Governor is expected to appeal the courts ruling.

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