Mark Osler portrait

Mark Osler

Professor and Robert and Marion Short Distinguished Chair in Law
J.D. Yale Law School
B.A. College of William and Mary
MSL 462
(651) 962-4852
Toll Free
(800) 328-6819, Ext. 2-4852

Professor Mark Osler's work advocates for sentencing and clemency policies rooted in principles of human dignity. In 2013, he was awarded the Outstanding Teaching award by the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
In 2014-15, Osler's writing on clemency, sentencing and narcotics policy has appeared or will appear in The New York Times and law journals at Harvard, Stanford, Rutgers, Northwestern, Wayne State, DePaul and the University of Chicago. His University of Chicago Law Review article (with Rachel Barkow) was highlighted in a lead editorial in The New York Times, in which the Times' Editorial Board expressly embraced Barkow and Osler's argument for clemency reform.
A former federal prosecutor, he played a role in striking down the mandatory 100-to-1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines by winning the case of Spears v. United States in the U.S. Supreme Court, with the Court ruling that judges could categorically reject that ratio. He has testified as an expert before the United States Sentencing Commission and the United States House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Much of his work has been in collaboration with other academics, commentators and judges, including Tom Ashbrook, Rachel Barkow, Amy Baron-Evans, Judge Mark W. Bennett, Douglas Berman, Jeanne Bishop, Graham Boyd, Judge Avern Cohn, Randall O'Brien, Randy Roberts Potts, Nkechi Taifa and Bill Underwood.
Osler's 2009 book Jesus on Death Row (Abingdon Press) critiqued the American death penalty through the lens of Jesus' trial, and led to an improvised performance of that trial that has been conducted in 11 states, with Osler serving as the prosecutor. He serves as the head of the association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, and held the Byrd Preaching Chair at St. Martin's-by-the-Lake Episcopal Church in 2012. He has given sermons in five states and for three different denominations. His current work on clemency and mercy is rooted in ideals of the Christian faith. In 2011, he founded the first law school clinic specializing in federal commutations, and he trained hundreds of pro bono lawyers for Clemency Project 2014.
The character of Professor Joe Fisher in the Samuel Goldwyn film American Violet was based on Osler, and in 2014 he was the subject of profiles in Rolling Stone and The American Prospect. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and Yale Law School.

Selected Publications


Memoirs of Christ’s Prosecutor (Book: Westminster/John Knox, 2016).


Prosecutors and Victims: Why Wrongful Convictions Matter (with Jeanne Bishop), 105 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 101 (2016).

Re-Creating Clemency Under Pressure (with Rachel Barkow), 82 University of Chicago Law Review 1 (2015). 

Forfeitures in a New Market-Reality Narcotics Policy, 52 Harvard Journal on Legislation 221 (2015).  

Treating Drug Crimes as White-Collar Crimes (with Thea Johnson), 61 Wayne State Law Review 1 (2015).  

1986:  AIDS, Crack, and C. Everett Koop, 66 Rutgers Law Review 851 (2014).  

Narcotics Prosecutors as Problem Solvers, 1 Stanford Journal of Criminal Law and Policy 1 (2014).  


Obama’s Clemency Problem, New York Times, April 1, 2016.

The President’s Idle Executive Power: Pardoning (with Rachel Barkow), Washington Post, November 26, 2014.

We Need Al Capone Drug Laws, New York Times, May 4, 2014.

Mark Osler Curriculum Vitae

Summer 2016 Courses

Summer 2016 Courses
Course - Section Title Days Time Location

Fall 2016 Courses

Fall 2016 Courses
Course - Section Title Days Time Location
LAWS 950 - 32 Supervised Resrch & Writing - - - - - - U -
CRN: 43448 Instructor: Mark W. Osler Under the supervision of a faculty member, a student may receive up to two hours of course credit for researching and writing a substantial paper on a topic of the student's own choosing. The student must receive the instructor's per- mission to enroll in this course and must meet periodically with the instructor for discussion, review and evaluation. Each faculty member may supervise the research of no more than five students each semester.

Schedule Details

Location Time Day(s)

J-Term 2017 Courses

J-Term 2017 Courses
Course - Section Title Days Time Location

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