Why would Michael Cohen refuse a pardon? There’s precedent

Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention. A Roundtable Discussion with Mary Sarah Bilder 3

(This article was first published on The Hill’s website on August 28, 2018.)

Last week, Michael Cohen’s lawyer insisted that he would refuse a pardon from President Trump if one were offered. Cohen’s refusal to accept a pardon puts him within a tradition reaching back many centuries of rejecting pardons because of the shame of receiving them.

The Supreme Court has several times upheld defendants’ decisions to refuse pardons. When bank robber George Wilson declined to plead a pardon from President Andrew Jackson, the Supreme Court held in 1833 that the pardon was not effective (United States v. Wilson). (Continue reading this article on The Hill’s opinion page here.)

Bernadette Meyler is Carl and Sheila Spaeth Professor of Law and Associate Dean of Curriculum at Stanford Law School and the author of Theaters of Pardoning (forthcoming 2019, Cornell University Press) and New Directions in Law and Literature (Oxford University Press, 2017). She holds a J.D. from Stanford Law School and a Ph.D. in English from UC, Irvine. Before entering legal academia, she clerked for Judge Robert Katzmann, now Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.