Federal Commutation Clinic

About the Clinic

The Federal Commutation Clinic is a small and extremely focused class which offers our students an opportunity to do substantive legal work, interact with clients, and develop narratives under the close supervision of faculty. It will also serve a real need among federal inmates for some guidance andassistance in evaluating and preparing commutation petitions.

The Clinic is a two-credit class for a total of four students, held in the fall semester only. Prof. Osler will teach the class and supervise student work.

About the practice

Federal pardon and commutation practice is a virtually unknown area of the law, with only a few practitioners in the private sector. It involves petitioning the President of the United States for either a pardon (which negates a federal conviction) or a commutation (which can shorten a sentence). The President’s power to issue pardons and commutations is virtually unfettered, and there are few rules or regulations regarding that process.

Petitions for a pardon or commutation are directed to the United States Pardon Attorney, who works within the Department of Justice. There is a simple form to fill out, which is available on-line. However, most successful petitioners submit much more extensive petitions than simply that which is included in the form. The key piece is an addendum, usually in the form of a narrative, which tells the story of the petitioner and makes the case for an early release.

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