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The response of lawyers to the call to volunteer with Clemency Project 2014 was phenomenal. More than 3000 individuals from over 800 law firms, law schools, and organizations reviewed more than 36,000 applications from federal prisoners who requested pro bono assistance in filing an application for commutation of sentence with the President. By the end of the Obama administration 2581 petitions were filed or supported by Clemency Project 2014. Of those, 894 applicants were granted commutations by President Obama.

This article looks at the response of the law schools and law students to the call for volunteers. The numbers are impressive. More than 30 of the 200 ABA-accredited law schools participated in Clemency Project 2014. Of the 894 applicants granted commutation through Clemency Project 2014 submissions, about 20 percent came from law school–submitted petitions.

When Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced the criteria for the Obama clemency initiative on April 23, 2014, few law schools were regularly engaged in federal clemency work. Professor Mark Osler at St. Thomas University Law School in Minneapolis had created a Federal Clemency Clinic in 2011, and at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, we started looking for federal clemency cases in August 2013, four months before Deputy Attorney General Cole first publically mentioned the idea of a clemency initiative in a speech to attorneys attending the Annual Meeting of the New York State Bar Association on January 30, 2014. A couple of other law schools occasionally had filed federal commutation applications as part of their post-conviction work, but these schools did not focus on federal clemency cases.



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