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Federal Commutations Clinic

About the Clinic

The Federal Commutations 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 member Professor Mark Osler. It will also serve a real need among federal inmates for some guidance and assistance in evaluating and preparing commutation petitions.

Applications for the federal commutations clinics are competitive and are accepted in the spring for a year-long commitment of 3 credits per semester.

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 online. 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.

Federal Commutations Resources