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Kim Kardashian and the Bipartisan Power of the Pardon

August 09, 2018 Chris Boscia

Kim Kardashian West made national news this summer after successfully convincing President Donald Trump to commute the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson.  Johnson, a sixty-three year old great-grandmother, was a first-time non-violent drug offender when she was given a life sentence without parole in 1996.  President Trump commuted her sentence after she had served 20 years in prison. 

Kardashian tweeted a message of thanks to the President noting that Johnson’s “commutation is inspirational & gives hope to so many others who are also deserving of a second chance.”  Buoyed by this success, Kardashian continued her work by visiting a California women’s prison on Friday, July 6, and tweeting about it to her 58 million followers. 

Do you know someone in California who deserves a second chance? 

People who have been convicted of a crime in California may apply to the Governor for a gubernatorial pardon.  Inmates currently serving a sentence for a conviction can petition to have their sentence reduced or eliminated by applying for a commutation.  Governor Brown has granted 1,115 pardons and 51 commutations since taking office in 2011. 

There are two paths to a pardon in California.  The first is to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation in the Superior Court of the county in which the applicant lives.  (See Cal. Pen. Code section 4852.01 et seq.)  The second, for individuals who are not eligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, is to apply for a direct pardon. 

1.   A Certificate of Rehabilitation has benefits, including:

  • An automatic application for a gubernatorial pardon;
  • An official recognition by the State of California of a person’s rehabilitation, which could increase a person’s chance of obtaining employment;
  • An increased potential for licensing consideration by a State board (Cal. Pen. Code section 4853); and  
  • Relief for some sex offenders from a further duty to register (Cal. Pen. Code section 290.5).

2.   A pardon by the Governor will:

  • Allow a felon to serve as a trial juror (Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. Section 203(a)(5));
  • Restore some rights to own or possess firearms (Cal. Pen. Code section 4852.17);
  • Allow a felon to be considered for appointment as a county probation officer or a state parole agent (Cal. Gov’t Code section 1029(c)); and
  • Allow certain sex offenders to be relieved of their duty to register (Cal. Pen. Code section 290.5).

To receive a commutation of a sentence, either by reduction or elimination, an incarcerated individual must fill out an application to the Governor of California and notify the District Attorney in the county in which the person was convicted. 

Donald Trump believed that Alice Johnson deserved a second chance.  Kim Kardashian West thinks there are more people out there who deserve a second chance too.