Current Student News

Jun 18

Osler continues commutations work in Washington D.C.

Published on: Monday, June 18, 2012

University of St. Thomas School of Law Professor Mark Osler was recently honored with invitations to speak in Washington D.C. on three separate occasions this summer.

Osler first traveled to the nation’s capital May 10 to speak at a forum - “Reimagining the Constitutional Pardon Power: Does the President Have a Role in Making Drug Sentences Fairer?” -  sponsored by Congressman Bobby Scott. Osler testified in support of his written proposal regarding mass commutation of sentences for defendants who were over-sentenced in crack cocaine cases before the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

Osler, Mark“This is an issue that does have a personal aspect for me,” Osler said, noting his background as a federal prosecutor in Detroit during the 1990s and the many people he convicted for trafficking offenses.  “[I]t’s very likely that some of the people I put in prison would in the end be the beneficiaries of [reforms I’m arguing for today].” Osler proposed implementing a clemency board for crack cocaine defendants that is modeled after the board President Ford commissioned in the mid 1970s to deal with sentencing for draft evaders.

“This is a process that I think offers a very good model for what we could do to address those people who are affected by mandatory minimums even in the wake of the Fair Sentencing Act,” Osler said. “To go back and to revisit those is just and fair…[t]he time is right for that.”

Clay Harris, a rising 3L at the School of Law, accompanied Osler on the trip. The two also lobbied for Osler’s idea for drug interdiction – fighting narcotics by severing the capital flow instead of imprisoning drug dealers. This included meeting with Congressman Robert Aderholt, Senator Al Franken, and the staff of Congressmen Bobby Scott and Henry Cuellar.

Shortly after returning from the first trip, Osler was again invited to present his views on commutation in Washington D.C. on June 1. He described a “worthwhile and open discussion” with Tonya Robinson, who is one of President Obama’s domestic policy advisors. “It was a fascinating and remarkable opportunity to put this idea directly before the people who can implement it,” he said.

Osler will return to the capital a third time on June 26 for meetings regarding a yet-to-be-unveiled project. “There are wonderful developments on the commutation front right now,” Osler concluded.

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