“Finding Common Ground and the Common Good on Religious Liberty and LGBTQ Rights” | Professor Thomas Berg speaks on panel
"All of us want to live out our identities in the public square, says Berg, and religious and LGBT communities have some parallel concerns."
Constitutional Law Expert and St. Thomas Clinic Professor critiques SCOTUS decision to uphold Travel Ban
"The majority did miss an opportunity to give teeth to one of the nation's most basic constitutional principles: the prohibition of official religious bigotry," says Religious Liberties Appellate Clinic Professor Thomas Berg.
Sunday's Star Tribune led with a powerful story from alumna Alison Griffith '14, who found herself across the desk from an 8-year-old girl from Guatemala who was separated from her father at the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Wednesday it was announced that President Trump had heeded the urging of Kim Kardashian West and would commute the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a non-violent drug offender serving a life sentence. It was a seemingly merciful and justified use of the president's power of clemency amidst a recent pardon spree that has largely benefited right-wing allies and firebrands like Joe Arpaio, Scooter Libby, and Dinesh D'Souza.
But if Trump's unconventional and uneven application of the pardon power is rankling some feathers, University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler believes that he may be inadvertently improving the way that the clemency system works. He and Bob discuss the roots of the presidential pardon, how it came to be considered a political risk and what a better system would look like.
Mark Osler, Board of Contributors: Reflecting on the good guys in the sorry state of American politics
Federal Commutations Clinic professor Mark Osler, "Everyone in politics, from the far right to the far left, seems to decry 'divisiveness,' a call that usually means that everyone else should come to their side and agree with them. The response to our divisions has not been compromise or moving to the middle; rather, it has been retrenchment and retribution. The result is a government that gets little done in addressing the very real challenges our nation faces."
Trump seems to be employing the pardon power as much for retribution as for mercy — to lash out at his critics and reward his friends who are under attack.
Clinic professor Mark Osler comments for NPR about the potential beginning of a celebrity-driven pardon system in the Trump era.
Appellate Clinic Wins Fifth Case in a Row Before U.S. Court of AppealsCase Before U.S. Court of Appeals
For the fifth year in a row, the Appellate Clinic at the University of St. Thomas law school has won a civil rights appeal on behalf of a prisoner in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Law students from the University of St. Thomas law school’s federal appeals clinic defended a Muslim man’s religious freedom on April 12 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, in what was the school’s sixth year in a row arguing a prisoner’s rights case before the court.
Presidential pardons for friends are legal — but they’re wrong | Professor Mark Osler for the Washington Post
With his fourth exercise of the clemency power, President Trump has once again chosen to favor someone (Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the chief of staff to former vice president Dick Cheney) who is connected and powerful. Meanwhile, none of the deserving federal prisoners with pending petitions — including many serving narcotics sentences that are now broadly condemned — have received a similar benefit. This is legal, but it is wrong.
Religious Liberty Appellate Professor Thomas Berg to present at CLE on April 19 | The Travel Ban at the Supreme Court: A Briefing on Trump v. Hawaii
On April 25, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the much-awaited case of Trump v. Hawaii, the challenge brought by the state asserting, among other things, that the Administration’s executive order barring admission into the U. S. from certain predominantly Muslim countries and suspending refugee admissions violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and federal immigration law. Join the American Constitution Society for a discussion of the legal questions under review by the Court and what’s at stake. To read the full brief, click here. To register for the webinar, click here.
Professor Virgil Wiebe facilitated a candid discussion between Minneapolis Mayor, Chief of Police, and Immigration Policy expert this past Friday. The forum explored methods and obstacles to bridge-building between local immigrant communities crippled by fear and law enforcement responsible for public safety.
In a symposium commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death, Professor Mark Osler sat on a panel of nationally renowned scholars to discuss the state of criminal justice. Hosted by the University of Memphis, the panel addressed policing in communities of color and contemporary penal policy, while grappling with the complex question of what policing and punishment should look like going forward.
Special counsel more likely to steer away from indicting the president | Professor Mark Osler for the Waco Tribune-Herald
In the end, we may well be left without charges against Trump and without an impeachment, even if significant evidence is developed against him. That might not be a bad thing. If we are left only with democratic solutions through orderly politics rather than prosecution, that still is much more than nothing. Solutions through the ballot box may not seem like “Hammer Time,” but they are just as American. Read more.
What exactly is a sanctuary city? St. Thomas law school Professor Virgil Wiebe talks to Heather Brown of WCCO-TV | CBS Minnesota.
Brad Walz '04, head of our new Trademark Clinic and shareholder with Winthrop & Weinstine, suggests you conduct a trademark search before getting that new business up and running.
Under the supervision of Professor Thomas Berg, Religious Liberty Appellate Clinic student Jessica Lanzi ’18 filed an amicus brief on behalf of a Baltimore pregnancy center that was being compelled by city ordinance to post statements in its waiting room. In January 2018, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Baltimore Pregnancy Center—declaring that the ordinance had violated the center’s First Amendment right to free speech. Read more.
Elder Law and Guardianship Alternatives students Alexus Anderson ’19 and Bridget Welter ‘19 assisted a formerly orphaned Romanian to find the freedom to chase his dreams and make decisions on his own.
I first visited St. Thomas Law to give a talk to the faculty at lunch. During the visit I saw the mission statement posted on a wall: “The University of St. Thomas School of Law, as a Catholic law school, is dedicated to integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice.” There, in a few words, were so many challenging imperatives. Faith and reason. Truth. Morality. Social Justice. Each different, each complicated, and each one of them was a part of what I had been imperfectly striving for.
St. Thomas Law School Launches Trademark Clinic for Students Interested in Intellectual Property Law
Law students at the University of St. Thomas have a new opportunity to gain hands-on experience during law school in the areas of trademark and intellectual property law. The Trademark Clinic will become the school’s 12th legal clinic when it’s offered for the first time in January.
A shift in U.S. immigration policy to include deporting people without criminal records has resulted in a deportation order for a Minnesota naturopathic doctor who has spent the past 18 years in the state, and, according to her patients, saved lives.
Community Justice Project Fellow Carmeann Foster was presented with the Rising Star Award on September 23. The Award honors young alumnae/i making a difference in their professions, communities and families. They demonstrate excellence in leadership and service to others, and play an influential role in family, profession, community, church or volunteer activities.
ICE Settles Case Challenging Interference with Legal Representation at Dilley | Faculty Fellow Rebecca Scholtz was Co-counsel for Catholic Legal Immigration Network
The parties in Dilley Pro Bono Project v. ICE have reached a settlement that ensures access to mental health evaluations for certain detained mothers and children seeking asylum. The case was filed after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) barred Caroline Perris, a full-time legal assistant with the Dilley Pro Bono Project (DPBP), from entering the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas.
Presidential pardon power: Trump takes aim at Constitution's soul | Prof. Osler for the Star Tribune
President Barack Obama used the pardon power to free hundreds of narcotics prisoners serving harsh terms. It was a principled use of mercy, a striking vision of the most powerful person on Earth recognizing the humanity of the least powerful. Now, President Donald Trump appears to be considering an abuse of that same power by helping some of the most powerful people on Earth, including himself. If he does try to stymie the investigation into collusion with Russia through clemency, Trump will harm both his legacy and the moral force of the pardon power itself.
What is the definition of an unaccompanied child (“UC”) under federal immigration law and what protections are afforded to such children? This practice advisory is intended to educate advocates on important UC protections and assist them with starting-point strategies for combating Department of Homeland Security efforts to strip vulnerable children of protections afforded to them as unaccompanied children.
In August 2016, Rudy Martinez received clemency from President Obama. He was one of 1,714 people who had their sentences commuted during Obama’s second term. Like Rudy, nearly all of them were non-violent drug offenders. In those two-and-a-half decades of incarceration, he often joked that he would be free when the Cubs won the World Series. It turned out he was right.
Catholic Legal Immigration Network Joins Lawsuit Challenging Government’s Interference with Legal Representation of Mothers and Children Detained in Dilley, Texas
The Dilley Pro Bono Project (DPBP), a consortium of the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), filed suit to challenge a new ICE policy that arbitrarily restricts the types of legal services that DPBP may provide and interferes with the ability of DPBP staff to effectively represent their clients.
Immigration agents in Minnesota, neighboring states making more arrests under Trump | Prof. Wiebe speaks to the Star Tribune
After months of speculation about how much the new government had picked up the pace of immigration arrests and deportations, new data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement offers an early glimpse. From the inauguration through mid-March, agents working out of ICE's St. Paul office, which also covers the Dakotas, Iowa and Nebraska, arrested more than 620 immigrants — up roughly 80 percent over the same period last year.
Minnesota law enforcement grapples with federal immigration orders, goals | Prof. Wiebe speaks to MPR News
The Trump administration has cited Hennepin County for not cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement efforts to detain some immigrants in the country illegally who allegedly committed crimes.
But some in Minnesota law enforcement say there are limits to how they can respond to such federal requests.
The Trump administration on Monday issued the first in what will be a weekly list of jurisdictions it says have not honored federal immigration detainer requests.
'Noncooperative': Hennepin County lands on new Trump immigration list | Prof. Wiebe comments in the Star Tribune
Prof. Wiebe speaks to the Star Tribune about recent immigration critique from the Trump administration.
My school in downtown Minneapolis is built around a stunning atrium, a four-story glass-walled showcase looking out over a broad lawn and the Target corporate headquarters. Twice a year, new citizens of the United States are sworn in there as the sun streams in.
J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board awards Christina Espey-Sundt with the Fulbright award
Immigration Under Trump: Radical Change or More of Same? | Prof. Virgil Wiebe speaks at St. Cloud State University
Prof. Virgil Wiebe speaks at St. Cloud State University's School of Public Affairs on March 21, 2017 from 3:30pm - 4:15pm. The topic of discussion is Immigration under the Trump administration. Professor Wiebe will also explain U.S. immigration law in the Minnesota context by using the imagery of a hotel with U.S. citizens occupying the top floor, unauthorized immigrants as living in the basement, as other types of legal status in between.
Plymouth lawyer makes the case for girl power with leadership programs | The work of nonprofit clinic director, Alex Young, is highlighted in the Star Tribune
For a law school class on nonprofits, Alexandra Young came up with the idea of the Center for Girls’ Leadership.
It would be a place where middle school and high school girls could learn about their values and build the confidence to pursue their career dreams. It would be a place where girls would learn to become leaders.
When Young graduated from the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2012, her idea became reality.
Faculty Fellow Rebecca Scholtz presents at CLE on April 27 | Immigrants and Minnesota Family Law - Current Strategies in Uncertain Times
Faculty Fellow Rebecca Scholtz presents at a Minnesota State Bar Association CLE called Immigrants and Minnesota Family Law - Current Strategies in Uncertain Times on April 27.
The First Fifty Days | Prof. Collett and Prof. Wiebe speak on a panel focusing on the new administration.
Prof. Collett and Prof. Wiebe speak on a panel called The First Fifty Days, discussing the new administration on March 9, 2017. The panel is supported by the Institute for Catholicism & Citizenship – University of St. Thomas – Minnesota.
University of St. Thomas General Counsel and law professors formed a panel to explore the implications and legality of President Trump's executive orders on immigration.
(KMSP) - President Donald Trump significantly expanded the number of undocumented immigrants who face the possibility of deportation. The expansion was outlined in two memos released by the Department of Homeland Security.
The Religious Liberty Appellate Clinic at the University of St. Thomas School of Law has filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, on behalf of major religious organizations and a leading military chaplains alliance, in an important case involving the rights of military personnel under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The amicus brief supports a petition for certiorari review filed by a Marine corporal, Monifa Sterling, who was court-martialed for, among other things, objecting to a superior’s order to remove from her work station three small signs displaying a Bible verse.
Prof. Virgil Wiebe, Director of the Immigration Law Practice Group, speaks about the immigration executive orders on Kare11.
Samira Dahir got the call in the middle of the night: Her 4-year-old daughter, who was scheduled to leave a Ugandan refugee camp for the United States, would not be going anywhere because of an executive order President Trump had signed days before, temporarily blocking refugees from entering the United States.
Immigration Clinic Joins Effort to get Somali Girl to Minnesota Amid Travel Ban | St. Thomas Newsroom
The immigration clinic at the University of St. Thomas School of Law prepared this week to sign on to any potential litigation involving the case of a 4-year-old girl from Somalia who was impacted by President Trump’s recent travel ban. Faculty and students from the School of Law’s immigration and religious liberty clinics, including professors Virgil Wiebe and Tom Berg, students Ted Shillingstad and Jessica Lanzi, and alumnus James Todd ’14, were conducting background research into constitutional questions related to the case when young Mushkaad Abdi was cleared for travel.
Lawyers' unsung role: When the high and mighty overreach, count on us | Dean Vischer writes in the Star Tribune
Last weekend, a real-time lesson in checks and balances was on full display when federal Judge Ann Donnelly granted a motion to stop the government from removing foreigners legally authorized to be in the country until the scope and validity of President Trump’s executive order on refugees could be adjudicated.
There are number of ways for people from other countries to come to the U.S. So, how do they differ? Heather Brown answers this Good Question with Professor Virgil Wiebe. WCCO 4 News At 10
As the presidency of Barack Obama wrapped up last week, so too did the largest federal clemency initiative in United States history. But not before the sentences of 105 federal inmates were cut short thanks to the work of University of St. Thomas School of Law Professor Mark Osler and his former students.
Prof. Wiebe contributes to the research depicted in CBS Minnesota's news.
BLM App Allows Black People to Mark Themselves ‘Unsafe’ In America | Community Justice Project Fellow featured
Ngeri Nnachi-Azuewah, Community Justice Project 3M Clinical Law Fellow, is featured in the Atlanta Black Star.
In Death Row Inmate's Appeal, U.S. Court of Appeals Judges Call Out Quality of Briefs by St. Thomas Law Students | Newsroom from St. Thomas Law
The Appellate Clinic at the University of St. Thomas School of Law—with third-year students Bridget Duffus and Katherine Koehler, and supervised by Professor Gregory Sisk—worked this year on a continuing challenge by a death row inmate in Arizona to the prison’s policy of skimming the contents of letters prisoners write to their lawyers. The clinic’s case was submitted with oral argument to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco on January 11.
President-elect Donald Trump swept to the White House promising to clamp down on illegal immigration and so-called "sanctuary cities" like Minneapolis and St. Paul whose leaders vow not to act as local immigration enforcers.
Republicans around the country — including the newly empowered GOP majorities in the Minnesota Legislature — have followed suit, threatening to withhold government aid from cities that decline to work with federal immigration authorities and represent themselves as safe havens against deportation.
“You’re just watching the ship sink and you’re in the lifeboat. And there’s not enough room for everyone,” said Mark Osler, a University of St. Thomas law professor and former federal prosecutor who runs a clemency clinic for law students. “These last few weeks — it’s deep joy and it’s deep tragedy.”
The Future of Religious Liberties under the New Administration | Prof. Berg Speaks on the Religious Liberties Practice Group Podcast
What is ahead for religious liberties under the Trump administration? Will churches be granted a victory in Trinity Lutheran v. Pauley? Will Trump’s Justice and Education Departments continue the push for transgender rights in public schools? Professor Richard Garnett of The University of Notre Dame Law School and Professor Thomas Berg of the University of St. Thomas School of Law joined us to answer these questions and many others on religious liberties in 2017.
- Professor Thomas C. Berg, James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law
- Professor Richard W. Garnett, Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor and Concurrent Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame Law School
Sanctuary and the Rights of Immigrants on Campus | Prof. Wiebe Speaks at the Institute for Advanced Study
What are the rights of undocumented people on campus?
What is a sanctuary campus?
What is a sanctuary city? What does it mean that Minneapolis is a sanctuary city?
Now, a coalition of large Minnesota nonprofits is developing a less-intrusive alternative. With a $1 million federal grant, Volunteers of America of Minnesota and Wisconsin will lead a group of social service agencies in building a way to protect vulnerable adults while respecting their dignity and preserving their rights against overzealous guardians. And instead of relying on overburdened courts, the new system will connect people like Allen with relatives and teams of social workers who have expertise in caring for people with disabilities.
Advocates predict that if the model catches on, hundreds of Minnesotans could regain control over such basic decisions as where to live, whom to date and how to spend their money.
“This has the potential to be a revolutionary approach,” said Anita Raymond, project director at Volunteers of America. “We are seeking to change the culture in Minnesota of defaulting to the use of guardianship.”
The Constitution gives presidents nearly unlimited authority to grant pardons and commute sentences — decisions that no future administration can reverse. Unfortunately, for most of his presidency, Barack Obama treated mercy as an afterthought. Even as thousands of men and women endured outrageously long sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses as a result of the nation’s misguided drug war, Mr. Obama granted relief to only a tiny handful.
A coalition of more than 50 scholars and advocates are calling on President Obama to expand clemency efforts in the final weeks of his administration — including considering granting clemency to entire groups of people without case-by-case review.
A coalition of more than 50 scholars and advocates are calling on President Obama to expand clemency efforts in the final weeks of his administration — including considering granting clemency to entire groups of people without case-by-case review.
Jocelyn Hernandez dressed in all black on Wednesday morning as she faced an uncertain future.
An Obama administration program for young immigrants brought to the country as children allowed Hernandez, a North Hennepin Community College sociology student, to work, drive and plan for a career as a teacher. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to end the deportation reprieve program — part of a tougher stance on illegal immigration that he made a centerpiece of his campaign.
After his victory, Minnesota Latinos and other immigrants worry about pledges to step up deportations, build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and crack down on employers who hire unauthorized workers. The election’s outcome also dimmed hope for a state proposal to grant driver’s licenses to residents without legal status — and for national immigration reform that would open a path to citizenship.
Meanwhile, Trump’s election heartened Minnesotans who want to see tougher immigration enforcement.
Key questions remain about what a Trump administration can do and will do about immigration, said Virgil Wiebe, an immigration law expert at the University of St. Thomas.
Professor Osler writes for The Hill after the 2016 elections.
I have spent my adult life in Detroit, Waco, and Minneapolis. Sometimes I have been able to wade into the political world of the East. Last month, I gave a talk at Harvard Law School with my longtime friend, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan of the Southern District of New York. We had a debate over narcotics policy at noon, and then spoke to a class later in the day. There were about 25-30 students in that class. Because the dispute between Judge Sullivan and I had to do with regional differences, I asked how many of them were from the parts of our nation between the East and West coasts. There is a lot there: Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Memphis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Minneapolis/St. Paul and 2,500 miles of smaller towns and rural areas. Three hands were raised.
A couple of days before the election, The Gospel Coalition, a leading evangelical website, did a story comparing the prospects for religious liberty under Clinton and Trump. I was interviewed, and I emphasized the likely "direct" religious-liberty threats to conservative religions that a Clinton administration would have posed; then I referred to problems posed by Trump.
The Minnesota 8 committed crimes and served their time via state laws.
Now, they're facing federal punishment.
Based on a 1996 immigration law, they can be deported for committing aggravated felonies even if they've served time.
St. Thomas law Professor Virgil Wiebe explained the big picture.
"The tricky thing is with the shifting definitions of what kinds of crimes will get you deported. The law that was passed in 1996 says a whole range of crimes, from very serious crimes, to what appeared to the common person to be petty crimes, are considered aggravated felonies, "Professor Wiebe added.
Upcoming Events | Federal Drug Sentencing: A Discussion of Where We Are, How We Got Here, and What the Future May Hold | Harvard Law School
Discussion of federal drug sentencing, with U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan and Professor Mark Osler on October 26, 2016.
Mark Osler's journey has led him from a career as a fierce prosecutor, to now arguing for clemency and leniency in sentencing. He also works to abolish the death penalty. We talk about this transformation, as well as his new book, Prosecuting Jesus.
In our conversation, Osler talks about being a prosecutor in an era of "mandatory minimum sentences." He would watch defense attorneys make impassioned arguments, even though the words would not lessen the sentence that would be imposed. Despite their seeming futility, Osler credits those passionate speeches with changing his own mind about the criminal justice system, and his role in it.
We go to the heart of the importance of that "faithful futility" in this compelling and fascinating interview.
Mark Osler, Board of Contributors: Our attitudes about one another better improve, win or lose, beginning Nov. 9
This election cycle has been a cruel one. The presidential candidates share one thing, at least: the instinct to attack their opponent in the most cutting way possible. Our electorate is largely following suit. Many Trump supporters genuinely believe Hillary Clinton is evil. An equal number of Clinton supporters cannot imagine why anyone would vote for Trump, a man they despise.
We are in the heart of cross country season for high school and college athletes. Watching a race last week reminded me of this crucial point in the Obama presidency. Just as runners accelerate to the finish, knowing that moving up in those last few hundred yards may be the difference between a victory for their team or a loss, President Obama will finish his clemency project either with a flourish—thus ensuring his legacy for restoring the lost tool of the pardon power—or with a limp, coloring his record on criminal justice. If he fails to finish strong, it will not just be his legacy that suffers, but the hopes of prisoners with good cases and the sense of fairness one hopes for when justice and mercy meet the levers of power.
The scene: a briefing room at the White House. Date: March 31, 2016.
The audience: a diverse group of administration officials, attorneys, human rights activists and former prisoners who had received presidential grants of clemency.
The day before, President Barack Obama had announced another 61 such grants, bringing the total of prisoners whose sentences he had commuted during his presidency to 248. That same day, however, The Washington Post had run an article critical of the administration for not doing enough to act on the thousands of petitions for clemency from federal prisoners serving lengthy sentences. The article prominently quoted a law professor – an expert on clemency – calling the grants nothing to celebrate when more than 9,000 petitions from eligible prisoners remained pending.
The source quoted: Professor Mark Osler of the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
It’s been a rough year. In the last few months, five police officers were killed in Dallas, and closer to home, Jamar Clark and Philando Castile were killed by law enforcement officers. Sometimes it’s hard to find common ground when tensions run high. To address the sometimes contentious relationship between police officers and people of color, the University of St. Thomas School of Law held a forum Sept. 14.
“Finding Common Ground Between Public Safety and Racial Justice – All for the Common Good” was a candid and civil dialogue among six panelists that sought to build bridges across differences and promote community engagement.
Robert Vischer, dean of the School of Law, introduced the panel, saying, “It’s vitally important that St. Thomas be a champion for these kinds of conversations. We’re here to listen and learn from each other, not to reach consensus.”
Here are five observations from the discussion.
During his time at St. Thomas, Huffman participated in the Community Justice Project and worked for the Minneapolis City Attorney, where he spent time in the office’s civil and criminal divisions. He wrote for and edited the Journal of Law and Public Policy and earned his master’s in public policy before his legal education was complete. His courses, such as Advanced Legal Research and Trial Advocacy, helped him “hit the ground running” in his legal career, he said. Legal analysis was a “180-degree change” from the way he was trained to think as a corporate communications major. At St. Thomas, he acquired the “lawyer way to think” about issues he would encounter at work and in the world around him.
The work of the Federal Commutations clinic and Professor Osler is covered by Fox 9 News.
Law professor Mark Osler told a federal inmate serving a life sentence that he would be a free man by New Years.
The news came by the White House and the Department of Justice, which announced Tuesday President Barack Obama had commuted the sentences of 111 federal inmates.
Osler holds the Robert and Marion Short Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. Before joining the law faculty, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit, during which time he prosecuted innumerable drug cases, enforcing the draconian sentencing laws he now rails against from academia.
Prof. Osler talks to NPR about President Obama's clemency policy and his own federal commutations work.
Osler, the law professor and lawyer for inmates seeking mercy, said he thinks the president believes in the effort. Obama, he said, visited a prison and went to lunch with people who won clemency. The question for the next five months is whether the White House can finish the job, even if it angers some Republicans in Congress, Osler added.
Professor Berg speaks on the national podcast by the Federalist Society about the Supreme Court's upcoming case, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley. The case concerns whether a church operating a day care can be excluded, simply because it's a church, from applying for state funds to resurface its playground with recycled tire rubber to make the playground more safe for the children using it.
In the podcast, Professor Berg argues for the right of the church day care, and by extension the children and families using it, to equal eligibility for safety and health benefits offered by government.
Earlier this month, President Obama made history by commuting the sentences of 214 people in federal prisons. That action, one of the largest exercises of presidential clemency powers since Gerald R. Ford granted pardons to Vietnam draft dodgers and deserters facing prison in 1974, has been hailed by the White House as a sign of Obama’s commitment to clemency.
When President Barack Obama granted clemency to 214 federal inmates last week, University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Mark Osler and several of his former students finally saw the fruits of their labor—some more than five years in the making. On Obama’s list were the names of six men whose freedom they helped make possible.
Through their work as clinical student attorneys in the Federal Commutations Clinic at St. Thomas Law, alumni Marc Spooner ’12, Ashley Bennett ‘13, Derek Hansen ‘13, Eric Hylok ’15 and Jamie Waldon ‘15 directly impacted the lives of three men whose sentences were commuted Aug. 3. An additional three men were helped by Waldon through his work with the Clemency Resource Center at New York University, a pro bono law office that Osler co-founded, where Waldon works alongside Hylok and four other fellows.
Any lawyer who practices regularly in the federal courts will encounter the federal government as a party and will learn, as the Supreme Court warned nearly 60 years ago, that the United States is not “just another private litigant.” The federal government is a party, as plaintiff or defendant, to between one-fifth and one-quarter of all civil cases in the federal courts, including such special tribunals as the Court of Federal Claims and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The federal government (and its employees) may be protected by sovereign or official immunities, assert special defenses, and enjoy certain exceptions from liability. Federal government cases often involve issues central to the lives of many people, such as claims involving personal injury under the Federal Tort Claims Act; civilian and employee military claims under the Civil Service Reform Act and Tucker Act; governmental expropriation of property under the Tucker Act; and contractual obligations under the Contract Disputes Act; Bivens constitutional claims against federal officers; and claims for attorney’s fees under such unique statutes as the Equal Access to Justice Act.
Read more from Prof. Greg Sisk.
Prof. Levy-Pounds, President of the Minneapolis NAACP, speaks to Politico Magazine.
In Levy-Pound’s perspective, it is a relative lack of investment, not segregation, that pushes black Minnesotans so far away from achieving equality. “If we had access to the proper resources, African-Americans could have thriving enclaves within the Twin Cities community,” Levy-Pounds said.
Dean Vischer writes in Mirror of Justice about the recent violence in Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas.
I viewed last week's horrific violence through the lens of John Inazu's important new book, Confident Pluralism, in which he affirms the importance of certain constitutional commitments (focusing on the right of association and the public forum and funding requirements) and encourages the "civic aspirations" of tolerance, humility and patience. He explains:
Prof. Berg writes in Christianity Today as an expert in religious liberty law. Berg explains Golden State's controversial SB 1146.
Later this year, California governor Jerry Brown may sign legislation with numerous harmful repercussions for the Golden State’s Christian colleges. The state is currently moving closer to adopting a bill that would subject religious higher-education institutions to regulations forbidding them to act on their religious tenets if their students receive state grants to support their studies. SB 1146 “could destroy the ability of numerous faith-based colleges and universities to pursue the mission for which they were created,” warned Ed Stetzer, the executive director of Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, in a recent post reporting on an earlier draft.
Episode: Community leaders speak out on the Philando Castile case, Nekima Levy-Pounds, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell, firearms instructor Lucky Rosenbloom, a Dominic Papatola essay, political scientist panel
"You Shot Four Bullets Into Him, Sir": Girlfriend Livestreams Philando Castile’s Death by Police | Democracy Now!
Prof. Levy-Pounds speaks to Democracy Now! about the shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Philando Castile was shot at about 9 p.m. Wednesday night.
By midnight, #FalconHeightsShooting was trending on Facebook and Twitter.
Five years ago, the widespread reactions would not have happened so quickly.
Less than nine hours after the shooting, many people had already formed strong opinions about what happened.
“The way the public perceives an event is often shaped by the first things that hit social media,” said Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and professor of law at the University of St. Thomas. “Those are playing an outsized role in terms of defining the public debate.”
Two major events have changed the intersection of video and police work: Rodney King and the introduction of the smartphone.
At a vigil Thursday evening outside a public Montessori school where Philandro Castile worked, his mother, Valerie Castile called her son "an angel." Though she recalled cautioning him to always comply with police, she said she never thought she would lose him.
"This has to cease. This has to stop, right now," she told the crowd.
Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday morning he's pressing for a federal investigation.
"We are shocked and horrified by what occurred last night," he said, promising to do "everything in his power" to do a complete investigation and adding, "Justice will be served in Minnesota."
In Washington, D.C., FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers he was briefed on the Minnesota case "and I expect we'll be involved."
At the White House, a spokesperson said President Barack Obama was "deeply disturbed" by reports of the Falcon Heights shooting.
Dayton spoke to reporters outside the governor's residence in St. Paul alongside Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, the Rev. Danny Givens, and Clarence Castile, Philando's uncle.
Gov. Mark Dayton called for a federal investigation of the fatal shooting of a black man, Philando Castile, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. "This kind of behavior is unacceptable," he said.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Protesters gathered outside the governor’s mansion early Thursday morning following the fatal officer-involved shooting of 32-year-old Philando Castile by a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn.
Protesters marched from the scene of the shooting at Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street to the governor’s mansion in St. Paul. Many protestors have said they will not go home until Gov. Mark Dayton comes out to give a statement.
"We trust our government, at least we're supposed to, to be able to hire these people who are supposed to protect and serve us and when they kill one of us without just cause, there should be accountability," Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds told the protesters. "People should not be executed, shot at point blank range and we're told that it's OK."
Prof. Osler comments in the Star Tribune article, Drug inmate wins release, thanks to University of Minnesota program.
On June 3, 2016, Robert Sleepers received the phone call he had thought about for the past 12 years. Sentenced in June 2004 to a mandatory minimum of 20 years for his role in a non-violent, relatively low-level conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Sleepers admittedly broke the law, but his punishment far exceeded his crime.
For more than 12 years, Sleepers had limited contact with the tight-knit family that supported him throughout his incarceration. He and his family members relied on letters, rare visits, and telephone calls to maintain their tight family bond. On holidays his family members would gather around the phone in one central location to allow each of them to speak with the father and brother they had all missed over the past decade. However, the June 2016 phone call brought news that would change future holidays for Sleepers and his family.
Read more in Newsroom.
Listen to Prof. Mark Osler talk about the Clemency system on NPR news.
Levy-Pounds is a human magnet. Folks were coming by to speak to her or waving at her to come over all during our hourlong chat Tuesday at the Golden Thyme coffee shop on Selby Avenue in St. Paul. The soon-to-be-40-year-old mother of five, law professor, civil rights attorney and activist is also a magnet for controversy, depending on your stance.
As the most visible and outspoken member of the Black Lives Matter movement in the Twin Cities, she has led high-profile protests and demonstrations in the wake of the Nov. 15 shooting death of Jamar Clark during an encounter with two Minneapolis police officers. The officers reported that Clark, who was unarmed, was shot when he grabbed for an officer’s holstered weapon after he was taken to the ground. The shooting sparked 18 days of demonstrations outside the 4th police precinct police in North Minneapolis. During that period, police cars and other properties were damaged, and five protesters were shot and wounded, allegedly by suspects accused of being white supremacists. There’s an ongoing federal inquiry into allegations of police brutality during the protests as well as how the city handled it.
Cornish, chairman of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee, laid out his advice in a letter to the editor published Wednesday by the Star Tribune.
Among the advice offered was: "Don’t be a thug and lead a life of crime so that you come into frequent contact with police." In another bullet point, he wrote "Don’t flap your jaws when the police arrive. Don’t disobey the requests of the police at the time. If you think you are wrongfully treated, make the complaint later."
He ended his letter by saying: "Here endeth the lesson. No charge."
Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, decried the letter, saying its use of the word "thug" was a coded reference to black men.
"I'm disgusted that one of our state legislators would feel comfortable writing a racially-charged op-ed that reinforces negative stereotypes about African-Americans," she said.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The head of the Minneapolis NAACP is reacting strongly to a letter to the editor from a powerful Republican lawmaker.
State Representative Tony Cornish says he is only trying to defend police against unfair attacks, but his letter to the Star Tribune uses words that NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds calls “outrageous” and “racist.”
Utah man whose long drug sentence stirred controversy is released | Prof. Osler comments in The Washington Post
“After three and half years of inaction on Weldon’s clemency petition, he is free because of the fair and good action of a prosecutor,” attorney Mark W. Osler said. “He returns to citizenship because of the actions of one individual — just not the individual I was expecting. Weldon’s freedom is a wonderful thing but remains just one bright spot among many continuing tragedies.”
A White House spokeswoman said that the White House cannot respond with details about any individual clemency case.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, President of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP and a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter movement in the Twin Cities, has announced she's leaving her position as a law professor at the University of St. Thomas to further pursue her "calling as a freedom fighter and advocate for racial and social justice."
She made the announcement in a Facebook post Friday evening.
Levy-Pounds joined the St. Thomas law faculty in 2003 at the age of 27. There she founded the award-winning civil rights legal clinic Community Justice Project.
As she approaches 40, Levy-Pounds said she has reflected on the work she wants to do in Minnesota, and decided it's time to take her work "to a new level."
Nekima Levy-Pounds, head of the Minneapolis NAACP, has announced she's leaving her professorship at the University of St. Thomas law school to pursue full-time work as an advocate for racial and economic justice.
Her last day at St. Thomas, where she has taught for 13 years, will be July 31. She is the founding director of its Community Justice Project, a civil rights legal clinic. Students involved in the clinic successfully pushed the Minneapolis City Council to repeal ordinances banning lurking and spitting.
A prominent figure of the Black Lives Matter movement and head of the NAACP in Minneapolis is leaving her job at the University of St. Thomas Law School.
Nekima Levy-Pounds announced via her Facebook page that she’s leaving the school to pursue advocacy for racial and economic justice.
In a 2010 report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2010. Guardians also stole $5.4 million in assets from their wards in that period, the GAO said. (The GAO is currently working on an updated report.)
As the boomer population moves into old age, the numbers of people affected by guardianship and conservatorship will rise “tremendously,” said Jennifer Wright, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis who directs the school’s Elder Law Practice Group.
“There are more of us who are going to enter the danger age,” she said.
More adults will be at risk of abuse as boomers enter 'the danger age.' Prof. Jennifer Wright, Director of the Elder Law Practice Group, speaks with Next Avenue.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, along with other community members are calling for the resignations of Minneapolis Park Board President Liz Wielinski and Minneapolis Park Superintendent Jayne Miller.
Prof. Osler, Director of Federal Commutations Clinic, writes for the Baltimore Sun along with Nkechi Taifa of the Open Society Foundations.
Clinton and Sanders should commit to clemency | The Baltimore Sun | May 19, 2016
Prof. Levy-Pounds comments in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press about the body camera bill.
Listen to Professor Mark Osler speak of Criminal Justice Reform and Clemency on the AM950 podcast.
Lack of resources, bureaucratic tangles have bogged down Obama’s clemency efforts | The Washington Post
Professor Osler comments in The Washington Post regarding his work with the Clemency Resource Center.
Professor Osler, Director of the Federal Commutations Clinic, is featured in an article in Fusion regarding the Obama Administration's Clemency policy.
This good-looking bunch are the students and supervisors of the of the federal inmate clemency clinic at the law school at the University of St. Thomas. The clinic was founded by Professor Mark Osler, the speaker at Drinking Liberally in Minneapolis on April 28th.
In May 1995, a group of nearly 200 religious leaders of multiple faiths issued a sharp statement calling for reversal of the U.S. Patent Office’s recent decision to issue patents on portions of the human genome and on several genetically engineered animals (most notably, a laboratory mouse especially susceptible to cancer). “[H]umans and animals are creations of God, not [of] humans,” the statement said, “and as such should not be patented as human inventions.
How a mother, attorney, and occasional rapper named Nekima Levy-Pounds became one of the most prominent and divisive civil rights leaders in the state.
Prof. Levy-Pounds Delivers Opening Keynote at Leading Courageously for Racial Equity Conference in Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Prof. Levy-Pounds will be delivering the opening keynote at Leading Courageously for Racial Equity Conference in Minnesota State University, Mankato. The speech will focus on re-imagining public education.
What One Religious Liberty Scholar Thinks Conservative Christians Have in Common with LGBT Activists | Prof. Thomas Berg on what both sides must to do move the polarized situation forward.
Less than a year after a Supreme Court verdict guaranteed same-sex marriage across the country, Christian conservatives and LGBT rights advocates remain at odds. The object of discontent: legislation that proponents say would guarantee the rights of people of faith to make hiring and employment decisions based on that faith, but which opponents claim would be used as a weapon to discriminate against LGBT people.
Christianity Today recognizes that Christians hold a broad array of perspectives on these issues and invited Thomas Berg, a religious liberty scholar, to share his thoughts on the bills’ cultural and legal context. Berg teaches at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis and has had his work cited by the Supreme Court.
The head of the Minneapolis NAACP [Prof. Levy-Pounds] on Monday called on authorities to reopen the Jamar Clark police shooting case and appoint a special prosecutor to lead the investigation.
The demand for a new probe came as the woman who was injured the night Clark was shot by police said she was not Clark's girlfriend, that he never hit her that night and that the prosecutor's narrative that justified Clark's shooting by Minneapolis police was fabricated.
April 1, 2016, IN my pocket is something ancient: a 1,700-year-old Roman coin. It bears three human images and the word “Clementia.” That was the name of the Roman goddess of mercy, who was often depicted standing beside (and holding the hand of) the Roman emperor. The message was clear: Mercy was a virtue not only of individuals but also of governments. The framers of the United States Constitution embraced that tradition when they preserved for the president one of the traditional powers of kings: the pardon power.
That ancient ideal needs to be put into action by President Obama. Despite commuting on Wednesday the sentences of 61 federal prisoners convicted of drug and firearm crimes — bringing his total number of commutations to 248, more than that of his six predecessors combined — he is far from accomplishing the ambitious goals his administration publicly set out two years ago.
Mark Osler, a University of St. Thomas law professor who was a former federal prosecutor in Detroit, said much of the evidence federal investigators are analyzing is likely to be similar to what was shared by Freeman on Wednesday.
“There’s a limited amount of video out there,” Osler said. “There’s a limited number of witnesses to have seen the events.”
But Heffelfinger said any federal criminal civil rights case must look well beyond what happened during the 61-second interaction between the officers and Clark.
University of St. Thomas School of Law Professor Mark Osler spoke at the White House on Thursday, March 31, to discuss and share ideas on President Barack Obama’s clemency initiative alongside other advocates, academics and Administration officials.
Minneapolis Officers in Jamar Clark Shooting Will Not Face Charges, The New York Times story on Jamar Clark case
After Mr. Clark’s shooting on Nov. 15, protests disrupted Minneapolis for weeks. Demonstrators occupied the area outside a police station, marched downtown and raised questions about racial disparities in Minnesota. The demonstrators sometimes clashed with officers, and one night, the police said, several men who were not part of the demonstration came and shot five people during a protest.
After Wednesday’s announcement, protesters gathered at the courthouse, exchanging hugs, crying and vowing to return to the streets.
Credit Javille Burns, via Associated Press
“An injustice has been done today,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds, the president of the Minneapolis chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. “I believe they lie to us. I believe they tamper with evidence.”
Prof. Nekima Levy-Pounds, Minneapolis NAACP President, speaks with the Pioneer Press in Minnesota’s move to use private prison space draws opposition
Minneapolis NAACP head Nekima Levy-Pounds and other testifiers who opposed the bill said it didn’t matter that the state would operate the facility — it was still doing business with a private prison vendor.
“Who we do business with is just as important as the business we do,” Levy-Pounds said. “Doing business with the CCA is like doing business with the devil, because their practices are diabolical.”
Levy-Pounds also added that it seemed strange that unemployment was being debated in “a small, white rural town with an 8 percent unemployment rate,” but not in poor, inner-city minority communities — where unemployment rates are much higher, and extreme economic disparities “are fueling our incarceration rate.”
Minnesota couple try to help a friend navigate the U.S. Immigration detention system, Prof. Wiebe comments in the Star Tribune
Prof. Wiebe, Director of the Immigration Law Practice Group, comments in the Star Tribune about private immigration detention centers.
Carmeann Foster '12, one of our MSW graduates, receives the 2016 Bush Fellowship!
Motivated by faith, defense attorney forgives sister's killer, Prof. Osler speaks to Fox 9 News about his conversation with Jeanne
A Conversation with a Former Prosecutor
While Jeanne, her family, and her friends, knew she had forgiven Biro, the killer himself had not heard from Jeanne. That would change following a conversation with Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor, and a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.
“We were at dinner one night, and she was talking about David Biro, and one of the things that came up and she was struggling with how do you forgive someone who’s remorseless. I asked her, ‘how do you know that,’ because she’d never talked to him. She’d never said his name. And she said, ‘well, at trial, he denied everything.’ I said ‘that was when he was 16 years old, that was a long time ago.’ Two decades had passed since then. She had that moment of reflection,” Osler told Fox 9.
Listen to Dukassa Lemu, MSW'15, describe his experience completing Clinic Field Placement at the IPC
“Our community is in a great deal of pain as a result of the shooting of Jamar Clark at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department,” Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the NAACP Minneapolis, said in a statement. “It’s imperative that we demand accountability and transparency, which includes being able to gain access to the video footage of this tragic incident.”
The NAACP and the ACLU say the release of the tapes is required under the Minnesota Data Practices Act, adding that the state of Minnesota opened the door to releasing the tapes when they showed at least one to Gov. Mark Dayton.
The NAACP says a lack of trust in the system is why they are taking the fight to court.
“We have a high level of distrust for how the system functions, and part of that has to do with the fact the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has a very poor track record – abysmal, in fact — of holding officers accountable for shooting civilians,” said Nekima Levy- Pounds, the president of the Minneapolis NAACP.
Prof. Osler speaks with NPR about the Obama Administration's Clemency Process, New Pardon Chief In Obama Justice Department Inherits A Huge Backlog
"These are not easy questions that are being addressed, and because of that it does take an investment of time and resources," said University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler. "It's not the person; it's the process, and this administration has to realize that."
Co-Director George Baboila tweets a photo with Prof. Wiebe as he celebrates the new UST branding with Tommie the Tomcat.
Read about the work of Nadia Hasan, UST Bankruptcy Litigation Clinic Adjunct Faculty, in Super Lawyers.
It’s a drizzly, gray afternoon in April, and barely any light is filtering into the conference room at Cozen O’Connor in downtown Minneapolis. But Nadia Hasan, talking about her pro bono work, is shining.
“The people who work at that organization, and do the hands-on work, they’re amazing,” she says. The organization in question is the Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project, which seeks legal solutions for domestic violence victims. As co-chair and board member, Hasan raises funds and visibility for the nonprofit.
Special Film Screening: Don't Tell Anyone (No Le Digas A Nadie), co-sponsored by the Interprofession
University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Mark Osler recently announced the opening of a unique initiative, a pro-bono, pop-up law office. The Clemency Resource Center (CRC) will be open for only one year and will exclusively prepare petitions for federal clemency.
Osler calls the new operation a “factory of justice” and has the goal of addressing at least 300 clemency cases. The pop-up is housed and co-founded by the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at New York University School of Law.
New York University School of Law is launching a yearlong pro bono law office that will help federal prisoners seek clemency. Seven full-time attorneys—primarily recent law school graduates—will begin handling prisoners’ applications in August.
Dr. Artika Tyner, former Clinical Law Faculty with the Community Justice Project, is Named Interim Officer for Diversity and Inclusion
Dr. Artika Tyner, assistant professor of public policy and leadership in the College of Education, Leadership and Counseling, has been named interim officer for diversity and inclusion. Tyner will take up the work begun by Dr. Calvin Hill earlier this year while a search for a permanent vice president of diversity and inclusion is conducted.
Dr. Tyner writes of her work at the Interprofessional Center and the Public Policy Program in a feature for the American Bar Association, GIVING BACK: Training the Next Generation of Leaders.
Dr. Tyner writes of her work at the Interprofessional Center and the Public Policy Program in a feature for the American Bar Association, GIVING BACK: Training the Next Generation of Leaders.