A Conversation With The U.S. Pardon Attorney Office: A Clemency Series

U.S. Pardon Attorney Liz Oyer, and her office, joined NACDL for a discussion on commutations and pardons. This is a multiple part series on clemency. See recordings of past conversations below.

Available Now! An Introduction to the Cannabis Justice Initiative Natalie Papillon of the Last Prisoner Project and NACDL's John Albanes go over the intersection of cannabis cases, the Cannabis Justice Initiative, and clemency.

Available Now! NACDL's Elizabeth Blackwood discusses compassionate release, issue spotting lower sentence today issues, and clemency.

Available Now! NACDL Board Member and Director of the Trial Penalty Project discusses the Project and clemency.


Getting to Know the Pardon Power: Deputy Pardon Attorney Rosalind Sargent-Burns discusses with Elizabeth Blackwood, NACDL Counsel & Project Director of the First Step Act Resource Center, the intricacies of the pardon power, how it differs from commutations, and the role of the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the pardon process​. 

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Attorney Advisor for the Office of the Pardon Attorney, Kira Gillespie, sat down with Elizabeth Blackwood, NACDL Counsel & Project Director of the First Step Act Resource Center, to answer questions about how attorneys can turn preexisting compassionate release motions into commutation petitions. 

U.S. Pardon Attorney Liz Oyer sat down with JaneAnne Murray, NACDL Board Member and Project Director of NACDL’s Federal Trial Penalty Clemency Project. Pardon Attorney Oyer shared what lead her to taking this challenge and her goals at the Office of the Pardon Attorney. The Pardon Attorney spoke about the best way to get information to her office and the type of information needed in a clemency petition.

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U.S. Pardon Attorney Liz Oyer

Elizabeth (Liz) G. Oyer is the Pardon Attorney, with responsibility for leading and directing the work of the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Prior to her Justice Department appointment, she was Senior Litigation Counsel to the Office of the Federal Public Defender for Maryland, where she represented indigent defendants at all stages of proceedings in federal district court. She handled a wide variety of criminal cases, ranging from complex fraud to drug and gun offenses, as well as violent crimes. In addition to her case work, she was the Office’s ethics and conflicts advisor, discovery policy coordinator, and a mentor to junior attorneys.

Prior to joining the Federal Public Defender in 2012, Ms. Oyer was a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Mayer Brown LLP, where she practiced civil and criminal litigation. While there, she handled a diverse array of cases, including class actions and multi-district litigations, at both the trial and appellate levels. She also maintained an active pro bono practice during her time at the firm.

Ms. Oyer received her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and her law degree, cum laude, from Harvard Law School. At Harvard, she was an Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Review and a member of the winning team of the Ames Moot Court Competition, in which she was awarded Best Oralist. After law school, Ms. Oyer clerked for the Honorable Stanley Marcus, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Attorney Advisor Kira Gillespie

Kira Gillespie has worked in the Office of the Pardon Attorney since November 2010. During that time, she has reviewed and made recommendations on thousands of clemency petitions and was a key player in the 2014 Obama Clemency Initiative’s implementation and resolution. Before joining the Department of Justice, she worked as a public defender for the State of Virginia. She earned her JD from Washington and Lee University, School of Law in June 2007.

Deputy Pardon Attorney Rosalind Sargent-Burns

Rosalind Sargent-Burns is a longstanding member of the Office of the Pardon Attorney, having joined the Office in 2008 as an Attorney Advisor.  Since that time, she has held various long-term positions of increasing responsibility within the Office, including Designated Agency Ethics Officer, Team Lead, Senior Attorney Advisor over the pardon portfolio, Acting Deputy Pardon Attorney, and Deputy Pardon Attorney. She is an active participant in the Department's pro-bono program and multiple community volunteer efforts.

Upcoming programing

  • About NACDL's Cannabis Justice Initative, Excessive Sentencing Project, and Trial Penalty Clemency Initative in the Return to Freedom Project.


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