Office Location: MSL 462
J.D. Yale Law School
B.A. College of William and Mary
Mark Osler is a Professor of Law at the University of St, Thomas Law School in Minnesota. A graduate of the College of William and Mary and Yale Law School, Prof. Osler is a former federal prosecutor whose work has consistently confronted the problem of inflexibility in sentencing and corrections.
As lead counsel he won the case of Spears v. United States (2009) in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Court held that sentencing judges can categorically reject the 100:1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines. Justice Stevens (in dissent) also quoted Prof. Osler in the seminal case of United States v. Booker (2005), which struck down the mandatory guidelines. As an appellate attorney, Osler has briefed or argued cases (often as Amicus for other sentencing experts) in six federal courts of appeal and in the United States Supreme Court, and as a sentencing expert he has testified in Congress (2009) and before the U.S. Sentencing Commission (2004).
He serves as the head of the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, and often lectures on issues relating to sentencing, ethics, and faith and the law. His work on one case is portrayed in the Samuel Goldwyn film American Violet, where the character of Prof. Joe Fischer is based on Osler’s role in working with a former student to address suspect practices by a District Attorney. His book, Jesus on Death Row (Abingdon, 2009) challenges the death penalty based on the experience of Christ as a criminal defendant. He has also authored over twenty academic articles and has been interviewed as a sentencing or Supreme Court expert on CNN, NPR’s Morning Edition, ABC’s Good Morning America, and in hundreds of newspapers. In 2009 (while serving as a professor at Baylor University) he was named “Wacoan of the Year” by Wacoan Magazine.
In 2014, Osler was the subject of an expansive profile in The American Prospect titled "The Quality of Mercy," which detailed his life and work as one of the nation's most effective advocates for criminal justice reform.
|Description of course 615 :||This course will examine the origins, development, purposes and application of the criminal law, which may be the most direct expression of a society's collective morality. The class will be both theoretical and practical. Students will study and discuss theories of crime and punishment, as well as the real-life consequences of enforcing these theories in an imperfect world. Students will learn the general prin- ciples of criminal liability and related defenses, the ele- ments of various crimes, the nature of criminal acts and the requisite mental states. The course will emphasize heavily the ethics of criminalizing behavior and society's treatment of criminal wrongdoers.|
|Description of course 780 :||Criminal Practice is a practical class for those students who are committed to pursuing the vocation of criminal law. While Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure cover essential statutes and precedents, Criminal Practice teaches students how to use that knowledge and ethically practice criminal law in the field. For example, in Criminal Law students may have learned what a suppression hearing is, and in Criminal Procedure they will have studied the law that can be relied upon to suppress evidence. Criminal Practice builds on that knowledge and covers the actual preparation and presentation of a suppression motion-how to write the motion (and response), how to prevent evidence at the hearing, and how to interact with clients and agents before, during, and after the hearing. Because the course is rooted in practice, much of the student work is done in the form of exercises, which track the work done throughout the criminal case. As much as possible, these exercises are crafted to reflect the challenges faced in real cases.|
|Description of course 783 :||This course examines sentencing, the portion of the criminal process that often matters most to the defendant and to society. The course covers state law, federal law (including the federal sentencing guidelines), and the death penalty. Because far more cases result in a sentencing than go to trial, and because the doctrines and rules that control sentencing can be very complex, the subject is important and challenging. The course is useful for those planning to practice criminal law or those considering it, as well as for those considering federal judicial clerkships. Typically , the grade for the course is determined by a final exam and a sentencing exercise.|
|Description of course 793 :||The subject matter of these courses will vary from year to year, but will not duplicate existing courses. Descriptions of these courses are available in the Searchable Class Schedule on Murphy Online, View Searchable Class Schedule|
|931||Interscholastic Moot Court||1|
|Description of course 931 :||Interscholastic moot court competitions involve writing and advocacy against teams of students from other law schools. In a typical academic year, teams will be selected to part- icipate in the National Moot Court Competition during the fall semester and in a number of spring competitions. Teams are chosen by a committee of faculty members in consultation with student members of the Board of Advocates. Prior to participation in the competition, team members must write, edit, and submit a brief and practice oral arguments before students, faculty and attorneys. All interscholastic moot court teams work under the guidance of a faculty advisor.|
|Description of course 934 :|
|939||Moot Court Trial||2|
|Description of course 939 :|
|950||Supervised Resrch & Writing||.5|
|Description of course 950 :||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.|
|953||Clinic: Federal Commutations||2|
|Description of course 953 :||Students in the Federal Commutations clinic will work under the supervision of a professor representing individuals seeking federal commutations of sentence. Will likely involve travel to federal penitentiaries. Students in this clinic are expected to continue work in the spring semester. 2 credits/semester (spring semester is called Clinic: Advanced Federal Commutations). Enrollment by permission only. Prerequisite: LAWS 725 Professional Responsibility (concurrent registration allowed).|
|954||Clinic: Adv. Fed. Commutations||2|
|Description of course 954 :||This is the second semester of the two-semester clinic related to Federal Commutations work. Prerequisite: LAWS 953|
Sentencing and Corrections
My most important idea in scholarship has been the stubborn insistence that the crack/powder cocaine ratio in the federal sentencing guidelines comport with the demands of the Sixth
Amendment. This has led to a series of articles, briefs and lectures that culminated in the Supreme Court win in Spears v. United States, in which I was lead counsel.
Upcoming: I will focus on the death penalty and broader reforms in federal sentencing and commutation practice.
Mark Osler, Jesus On Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment (Abingdon Press, 2009).
Mark Osler, Unashamed and Unafraid, in The Baptist and Christian Character of Baylor (Donald D. Schmeltekopf et al. eds., 2003).
Mark Osler, Jesus on Trial in Texas, 179.3 Christian Ethics Today 18 (2010).
Mark Osler, Roe's Ragged Remnant:Viability, Stan. L. & Pol’y Rev. (forthcoming 2013).
Mark Osler, A Biblical Value in the Constitution: Mercy, Clemency, Faith, and History, U. St. Thomas L.J. (forthcoming 2013).
Mark Osler, What Would It Look Like If We Cared About Narcotics Trafficking? An Argument to Attack Narcotics Capital Rather than Labor, 15 UDC/DCSL L. Rev. 113 (2011).
Mark Osler, After the Implosion: Trailing-Edge Guidelines for a New Era, 7 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 795 (2010).
Mark Osler, Seeking Justice Below the Guidelines: Sentencing as an Expression of Natural Law, 8 Geo. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 167 (2010).
Mark Osler, Policy, Uniformity, Discretion, and Congress’s Sentencing Acid Trip, 2009 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 293 (2009).
Mark Osler, Aseret Had’varim in Tension: The Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights, 49 J. Church & St. 683 (2007).
Hon. Jeffrey Manske & Mark Osler, Crazy Eyes: The Discernment of Competence by a Federal Magistrate Judge, 67 La. L. Rev. 751 (2007).
Mark Osler, Christ, Christians, and Capital Punishment, 59 Baylor L. Rev. 1 (2007).
Mark Osler, The Lawyer’s Humble Walk, 32 Pepp. L. Rev. 483 (2005).
Mark Osler, Indirect Harms and Proportionality: The Upside-Down World of Federal Sentencing, 74 Miss. L.J. 1 (2005).
Mark Osler, Must Have Got Lost: Traditional Sentencing Goals, The False Trail of Uniformity of Process, and the Way Back Home, 54 S.C. L. Rev. 649 (2003).
Mark Osler, Capone and Bin Laden: The Failure of Government at the Cusp of War and Crime, 55 Baylor L. Rev. 603 (2003).
Brian Serr & Mark Osler, Criminal Procedure, 34 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 649 (2003).
Mark Osler, Two Preachers, A Trial Lawyer and Aristotle, 29 Religion & Educ. 78 (2002).
Brian Serr & Mark Osler, Criminal Procedure, 33 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 811 (2002).
Mark Osler, Shock Incarceration: Hard Realities and Real Possibilities, 55 Fed. Probation 34 (1991).
Barkow, Rachel E. and Osler, Mark William, Restructuring Clemency: The Cost of Ignoring Clemency and a Plan for Renewal (2014). University of Chicago Law Review, 2014, Forthcoming; U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-28; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper.
Mark Osler, Joseph G. Allegretti, The Lawyer’s Calling: Christian Faith and Legal Practice (1996), 1 J. Christian Legal Thought 25 (2011).
Mark Osler & Matthew Fass, The Ford Approach and Real Fairness for Crack Convicts, 23 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 228 (2011).
Mark Osler, Jesus on Trial in Texas, 179.3 Christian Ethics Today 18 (2010).
Mark Osler, Intensive Parenting and Banishment as Sentencing: Alternatives for Defendant Parents, 22 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 44 (2009).
Mark Osler, Texas Juries, Buyer’s Remorse, and Booker’s Fatal Flaw, 22 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 100 (2009).
Mark Osler, Death to These Guidelines, and a Clean Sheet of Paper, 21 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 7 (2008).
Mark Osler & DeAnna Toten Beard, Susan Glaspell Goes To Law School: Adventures in Teaching Trifles to Criminal Practice Students, 4 Tex. Theater J. 43 (2008).
Mark Osler, More Than Numbers: A Proposal for Rational Drug Sentences, 19 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 326 (2007).
Mark Osler, Ball in a Cup: The Case for Stability and Patience, 18 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 164 (2006).
Mark Osler, Uniformity and the Death of Traditional Sentencing Goals in the Age of Feeney, 16 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 253 (2004).
Mark Osler, The Blakely Problem and the 3X Solution, 16 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 344 (2004).
Mark Osler & Douglas A. Berman, Criminal History in Practice: The Practices and Practicalities of Criminal History, 13 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 307 (2001).
Mark Osler & Avern Cohn, The Calculation of Criminal History by AUSAs and Defendants: A Study of Inefficiency in the Eastern District of Michigan, 13 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 327 (2001).