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March 6, 2012

Former Maryland Governor setting up law school pardon clinic and training program

As reported here by the Washington Post, in "former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich (R) plans to launch the nation’s first law school clinic and training program devoted to pardons." Here is more from the article:

Ehrlich’s proposal takes aim at the inequities identified by ProPublica’s investigation into the dispensation of presidential pardons over the past decade.  White applicants were nearly four times as likely to receive forgiveness as minorities, the ProPublica analysis showed. African Americans had the worst chances of being pardoned.  Applicants with congressional support were three times as likely to receive pardons as those without it.

Ehrlich, who granted clemency to more than 200 convicts while in office from 2003 to 2007, said a pardons program would help disadvantaged applicants and give law school students experience dealing with people seeking a second chance, fostering “a sense of fairness and justice.”

“It would be a multi-pronged approach, including advocacy, public education and training,” said Ehrlich, who works in the D.C. office of King & Spalding, the Atlanta-based law firm. He also envisions the program as a place “where newly elected governors, their general counsels or chiefs of staff would also come and think about the pardon power.”

Ehrlich said he intends to contribute to the program and raise funds for it.  He is working to find it a home, looking at Georgetown law school and George Washington University, as well as other institutions in the Washington area.

Gregory B. Craig, who served as President Obama’s first White House counsel, said Ehrlich’s plan could help level the odds for pardon applicants lacking financial means and might spur presidents and governors to dispense more pardons overall.  “Pardons have fallen into disuse,” he said. “They have deteriorated and need to be restored.”

Craig advocated for pardon reform while in the White House, assigning a group of lawyers to design a process that would make pardons more attainable.  Among the options discussed was support for a law school clinic.

But none of the pardon reforms formulated early in the administration have advanced. Kathryn Ruemmler, who became Obama’s third White House counsel in June, was among the lawyers who worked with Craig on them.  Obama has turned down more pardon applicants, 1,019, and pardoned fewer, 22 — two of whom were minorities — than any modern president at this point in an administration....

Ehrlich’s proposal is modeled in part after the country’s only law school clinic for commutations, started a year ago at the University of St. Thomas law school in Minneapolis.  The commutations program is run by Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor who has argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court.

Osler’s students travel around the country interviewing federal prisoners, examining their criminal cases and filing applications on their behalf.  Because pardon seekers must wait five years after completing their sentences before applying for presidential pardons, a law clinic to help them might face fewer hurdles, Osler said.  “With pardons, you would have the advantage of not sending students into prisons,” he said.

Ehrlich’s program would put law students to work much in the way Osler has, but it also would host training seminars for governors and their staff members, along with an annual symposium on pardons.

Sounds like a great idea at a time when this kind of work and initiative is badly needed.  Kudos to Gov. Erlich.

March 6, 2012 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

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White House, assigning a group of lawyers to design a process that would make pardons more attainable. Among the options discussed was support for a law school clinic.

Posted by: Thomas Sabo IE | Mar 7, 2012 1:53:39 AM

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