Professor and Robert & Marion Short Distinguished Chair in Law
Office Location: MSL 462
J.D. Yale Law School
B.A. College of William and Mary
Professor Mark Osler's work advocates for sentencing and clemency policies rooted in principles of human dignity. In 2013, he was awarded the Outstanding Teaching award by the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
In 2014-15, Osler's writing on clemency, sentencing and narcotics policy has appeared or will appear in The New York Times and law journals at Harvard, Stanford, Rutgers, Northwestern, Wayne State, DePaul and the University of Chicago. 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.
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. Much of his work has been in collaboration with other academics, commentators and judges, including Tom Ashbrook, Rachel Barkow, Amy Baron-Evans, Judge Mark W. Bennett, Douglas Berman, Jeanne Bishop, Graham Boyd, Judge Avern Cohn, Randall O'Brien, Randy Roberts Potts, Nkechi Taifa and Bill Underwood.
Osler's 2009 book Jesus on Death Row (Abingdon Press) critiqued the American death penalty through the lens of Jesus' trial, and led to an improvised performance of that trial that has been conducted in 11 states, with Osler serving as the prosecutor. He serves as the head of the association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, and held the Byrd Preaching Chair at St. Martin's-by-the-Lake Episcopal Church in 2012. He has given sermons in five states and for three different denominations. His current work on clemency and mercy is rooted in ideals of the Christian faith. In 2011, he founded the first law school clinic specializing in federal commutations, and he trained hundreds of pro bono lawyers for Clemency Project 2014.
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.
|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.|
|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: Fed. Commutations I||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: Fed. Commutations II||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, Narcotics Prosecutors as Problem Solvers, Stanford Journal of Criminal Law and Policy (2014).
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.
Osler, Mark William, Law & Tactics for a Market-Reality Narcotics Policy (2015). Harvard Journal on Legislation, 2015, Forthcoming; U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-04.
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).