The Medium of The Pardon Attorney™ : Attorney Tammy Allison
This interview was first published by Black Authors Matter via Medium. You can read the original article here.
by Shaleea Johnson, Melanin Valley
During one of the most impactful presidential elections in the last 40 years, I thought it was important to hear from a fellow ADOS (American Descendent of Slavery) who has both a legal and personal point of view of the world today.
1. Thank you for joining me Tammy Allison, Esq. First, please, introduce yourself to the Medium world. Let us all know a little about you.
Hi! Thank you for having me. I’m a first-generation Nigerian-American that grew up in Texas. I’m a mom and my choice of profession is law.
2. As a former senior attorney with the United States Department of Justice You have had the pleasure of working under Bush, Obama and Trump right? Can you tell our readers one positive thing about working under each administration and one negative?
Honestly with each administration, the positive and negatives are the same. The positives were being able to learn and grow as an attorney by working with some of the most brilliant legal minds in the world. As far as the negative, across the board the injustices that I faced as a black woman attorney were tough, similar to most black professionals in any field.
3. As a black woman, fellow ADOS who is watching the first woman of color Kamala Harris, also a federal attorney and the former Attorney General of California, run for the Vice Presidential seat. Do you think a lawyer’s prosecutorial history record should be considered when running for public office?
Whew, you are trying to get me caught up! In the most non-partisan way, I believe that it’s important to consider all phases of the criminal justice system from beginning to theMend and recognize that each face has inherent racial biases that absolutely can’t be ignored no matter who the political candidate is or what their political affiliation is.
4. Great Answer! (Laughs) What prompted you to make the decision to leave DOJ?
Honestly, there was not one defining moment for me that lead me to write my resignation letter. It was a culmination of various events dating back at least five years. One of those events was, the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Sandra Bland in 2015. I was dealing with my own EEO discrimination case around that time (that DOJ settled out of court), and I remember watching her “Sandy speaks” where she stated she would call out racism whenever she saw it. That stuck with me because I had spoke up for myself, but not others at that time, and especially not regarding how I believed that the way in which my office evaluated the petitions for clemency was racially biased. Between 2015 and 2020, I stated immersing myself in learning as much as I could and attempting to effectuate change from within. It’s a lonely place to be with very few allies when you’re critiquing your employer’s way of implementing policies and procedures and highlighting conscious and unconscious biases.
I woke up one day and felt it was time to go. When trying to reconcile my reasons with myself, I literally wrote in my iPhone notepad, “it’s the injustice for me.” I started listing various examples of what I experienced and also what I had observed throughout my career and it turned into an article. From there an entire concept came to mind and I sat on it for a while until I was moved to execute it. The rest is history.
5. That is inspiring. In November 2020, during a pandemic, you launched, The Pardon Attorney™ by Attorney Tammy Allison, PLLC, a boutique solo law practice dedicated to the nuanced world of federal executive clemency. Please explain to our readers what you do and why this is missing from the fight for prison reforms.
I assist incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals with preparing and submitting their petitions for federal executive clemency to the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA), my former employer. I see federal executive clemency as the forgotten aspect of the “reform” conversations. It literally is a request for forgiveness.
The general public and most lawyers who haven’t worked in that office miss the simplicity of the forgiveness aspect and that’s why the necessary reform conversations can’t appropriately take place. I believe my voice is necessary in this regard because I was the second black person to be hired at OPA and the first black former OPA attorney to launch a firm dedicated to federal executive clemency. I am historically, only the third attorney to leave DOJ to do this.
6. Ok, you are making history as owning the first black expert federal executive clemency law firm. You Go Girl! After working for the DOJ under three different notable presidents, your motto is now: “Clemency Through Ownership.” Why is that your motto?
Having worked at OPA for 5 of my 10 years, I noticed that most petitions for ]pardons (different from commutations) fail due to a lack of consistency in their reentry efforts. The truth is that there is no secret formula for clemency. I believe that the difficulty formerly incarcerated individuals face in obtaining employment can be tackled with business ownership. Business ownership allows the individual to pay bills, have steady employment, and give back to the community.
I always encourage my clients to protect their businesses by legally registering it, obtaining federal trademarks, and registering copyrights. Enforcing and defending those business assets is just as important as obtaining them. This all leads back to being able to present a strong petition for a pardon by showing consistency in their reentry efforts.
7. That is a very innovative outlook in prison reform. I applaud you. Now that you have given up the reliability of being a federal employee for the exciting and unpredictable life as an entrepreneur, how have you been able to adjust to the non-stop grind of small business ownership?
I’m working the same amount of hours and balancing competing interest the same way I always did with DOJ. The difference is that now, I’m doing it for myself and my performance evaluation will be based on how happy my clients are.
I will forever be grateful for my time at DOJ. I learned so much and grew as an attorney and person. I believe in DOJ’s mission and I stand by it and my colleagues who remain their fighting the good fight. I think that as an entrepreneur in the private sector, I now have the ability to fully discuss the injustices that others and myself experienced while working at the DOJ.
These experiences inherently as they say, “trickle down” to the people that we serve — American citizens (and non-citizens).