Mark Osler

In the News: Professor Osler Discusses Presidential Pardons

Star Tribune logo

Law Professor Mark Osler wrote an op-ed published in the Star Tribune about the historic backlog of unresolved petitions for clemency that await consideration for a presidential pardon.

From the article: That stack now contains almost 18,000 petitions (in contrast, the backlog at the start of the Obama administration was a little over 2,000). Many of those petitions have sat for five or six years without action. Too many involve long sentences for marijuana offenses — cases that should be prioritized now that marijuana is legal in many states.

Certainly, many of the pending petitions won't be and shouldn't be granted (as a former federal prosecutor, I have no doubt that some people need to be in prison), but others have great merit. I know that because with my students in a federal commutations clinic at St. Thomas Law School, I have helped prepare a small fraction of the files in that giant pile.

I know that some of those petitioners are people who got unfairly long sentences for relatively minor crimes, who have done remarkable things while incarcerated, and who have entire communities waiting to support them when they re-enter society. We have told their stories, and I have sent my students into the prisons to meet them and hear those stories. Watching those stories of redemption go unread has been its own kind of sadness.