- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department has named a new head of its pardon office.

The department on Wednesday announced that Robert Zauzmer will begin serving immediately as the new acting Pardon Attorney.

The office is responsible for reviewing clemency petitions from federal inmates and identifying candidates to be forwarded to the president for his approval.

Zauzmer replaces Deborah Leff. She resigned last month after less than two years on the job.

The office currently has a backlog of more than clemency 9,000 petitions.

The Justice Department in 2014 announced an initiative to encourage inmates who met certain criteria to apply for sentence commutations. Advocates applauded the move, but say too many deserving candidates have not received consideration.

Zauzmer had been serving as chief of appeals in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia.

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