Mark Osler portrait

Mark Osler

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

Professor Mark Osler's work advocates for sentencing and clemency policies rooted in principles of human dignity. In 2016 and 2019, the graduating class chose him as Professor of the Year, in 2015 he won the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship, and in 2013 he received the Outstanding Teaching award.

Osler's writing on clemency, sentencing and narcotics policy has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and in law journals at Harvard, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Georgetown, Ohio State, UNC, William and Mary and Rutgers. 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. He is also the sole author of a new casebook, Contemporary Criminal Law (West, 2018).

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.

Osler's 2009 book Jesus on Death Row (Abingdon Press) critiqued the American death penalty through the lens of Jesus' trial. His second book, Prosecuting Jesus (Westminster/John Knox, 2016) is a memoir of performing the Trial of Jesus in 11 states. He currently serves as the Ruthie Mattox Chair of Preaching at First Covenant Church-Minneapolis, and held the Byrd Preaching Chair at St. Martin's-by-the-Lake Episcopal Church in 2012.  In 2011, he founded the first law school clinic specializing in federal commutations, and in 2015 he co-founded (with Rachel Barkow) the Clemency Resource Center, a one-year pop-up law firm that prepared clemency petitions. Between the two projects, over 100 people have been freed from prison.

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

BOOKS

Contemporary Criminal Law (West, 2018).

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

ARTICLES

Clemency as the Soul of the Constitution, 34 Journal of Law & Politics 31 (2019).

Short of the Mountaintop: Race Neutrality, Criminal Law, and the Jericho Road Ahead, 49 Univ. of Memphis Law Review 77 (2019).

Designed to Fail: The President’s Deference to the Department of Justice in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform (with Rachel Barkow) 59 William & Mary Law Review 387 (2017).

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).  

EDITORIALS

“The Clemency Process is Broken. Trump Can Fix it” (with Rachel Barkow & Mark Holden), The Atlantic, January 15, 2019.

“Presidential Pardons for Friends are Legal-but They’re Wrong,” Washington Post, April 20, 2018.

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

J-Term 2020 Courses

J-Term 2020 Courses
Course - Section Title Days Time Location

Spring 2020 Courses

Spring 2020 Courses
Course - Section Title Days Time Location
LAWS 615 - 02 Criminal Law M - W - - - - 1330 - 1455 MSL 446

Days of Week:

M - W - - - -

Time of Day:

1330 - 1455

Location:

MSL 446

Course Registration Number:

23245 (View in ClassFinder)

Credit Hours:

3 Credit Hours

Instructor:

Mark W. Osler

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.

Schedule Details

Location Time Day(s)
LAWS 780 - 01 Criminal Practice - T - R - - - 0825 - 1020 MSL 458

Days of Week:

- T - R - - -

Time of Day:

0825 - 1020

Location:

MSL 458

Course Registration Number:

23106 (View in ClassFinder)

Credit Hours:

Instructor:

Mark W. Osler

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.

Schedule Details

Location Time Day(s)
LAWS 950 - 20 Supervised Resrch & Writing - - - - - - - -

Days of Week:

- - - - - - -

Time of Day:

-

Location:

Course Registration Number:

23160 (View in ClassFinder)

Credit Hours:

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)
LAWS 954 - 01 Clinic: Fed. Commutations II - T - - - - - 1330 - 1525 MSL 244

Days of Week:

- T - - - - -

Time of Day:

1330 - 1525

Location:

MSL 244

Course Registration Number:

23219 (View in ClassFinder)

Credit Hours:

Instructor:

Mark W. Osler

This is the second semester of the two-semester clinic related to Federal Commutations work. Prerequisite: LAWS 953

Schedule Details

Location Time Day(s)

Summer 2020 Courses

Summer 2020 Courses
Course - Section Title Days Time Location