Politics / Is The Presidential Turkey Pardon Constitutional? Legal Experts And PETA Weigh In

Is The Presidential Turkey Pardon Constitutional? Legal Experts And PETA Weigh In

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fairly difficult
Constitutional law experts and the animal rights advocacy group PETA address the constitutionality and ethical concerns of the presidential turkey pardon.
President Joe Biden's first pardons of his presidency — two turkeys named Peanut Butter and Jelly — have legal experts and animal rights activists asking questions about the constitutionality of the traditional presidential turkey pardon.

While the ceremonious event has been an annual White House fixture for decades, legal scholars are concerned that the blanket presidential pardoning of turkeys may be outside the scope of the president's enumerated powers, posing possible constitutional violations.

"These laws are too enumerable and too incomprehensible that there is a possibility that somebody could make a plausible case that the presidential turkey pardon runs afoul of the law," said attorney Mike Chase, author of the popular Twitter account @CrimeADay.

According to Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution, the president "shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

"One of the issues with the presidential pardon is that there is actually never any kind of declaration about the scope of the pardon issued to the turkey. There can obviously be blanket pardons, but at the same time, I would think that it's unlikely that a turkey is committing a federal offense as a general matter. Given the relatively stationary life of a turkey, most are probably committing state crimes at best, and it would be outside the president's constitutional authority to be issuing a pardon for any kind of state conduct that a turkey was engaging in," Chase continued.

Chase told the Daily Caller that, "while there are no federal statutes to which I am aware of that refers to an offense committed by an animal, there are some statutes that don't specify who the doer of the crime is. So I don't think under criminal law there is capacity on behalf of a turkey, but there are certainly plenty of prohibitive acts that a turkey could engage in that would constitute a federal crime."

Jack Greenberg
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