Saturday, April 19, 2014

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CUA Law Partners with Former Maryland Governor in Clemency for Prisoners Clinic

The former governor of Maryland Robert Ehrlich has partnered with the Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law to form a clinic on clemency for prisoners as part of the law school's Innocence Project Clinic, according to a newsletter from the law school.

The clinic is innovative as it will include a workshop for governors and their staffs on the responsibilities of clemency powers. Students taking part in the clinic will prepare pardon applications.

Ehrlich made pardons and clemencies a top priority, granting 227 pardons and 21 commutations in his one four year term, according to Boston.com.

Daniel Attridge, who became the Dean of the Law School in February, announced the new clinic in the newsletter.

While serving the State of Maryland, Governor Robert L.Ehrlich, Jr. developed an innovative approach to executive clemency, standardizing the process and providing intensive rehabilitative services to those who were granted pardons or whose sentences were commuted.  To carry this work forward, we have just entered into a partnership with the Governor on executive clemency.

Under the leadership of Professors Sandy Ogilvy and Cara Drinan, we will expand the scope of our existing Innocence Project Clinic to include pardon applications prepared by our students; we will conduct a training program for newly elected state executives or their chiefs of staff;  and we will provide a venue for educational and advocacy programs on executive clemency.  For his part, Governor Ehrlich will arrange for donations to underwrite the costs of the collaborative project; he will be present at key events, including two held this month; and he will assist CUA Law in promoting the project through his network of contacts.  This is a splendid example of how our cooperative efforts can directly benefit our institution, our students, and our mission to serve the public.

Ehrlich, however, was on the advisory board of Republicans for Choice when he ran for governor, according to The Baltimore Sun. In 2006, Ehrlich signed a bill making Maryland one of only a few states to fund stem cell research including those derived from human embryos, according to The Washington Post.

He said of that issue, "I have my views, and those views are part of my record, part of my belief system," according to The Washington Post.

Victor Nakas, a spokesperson for CUA, which is recommended as a faithful Catholic college in The Newman Guide, released this statement to The Cardinal Newman Society:

To the best of our knowledge, neither the Catholic bishops of the United States nor the Vatican has ever stated explicitly or implicitly that Catholic institutions should reject affiliations with political or social leaders on issues that advance the common good and fulfill our Catholic mission simply because we have serious disagreements with those leaders on matters that are wholly unrelated to the affiliation. During his pontificate, Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of mercy and social justice. We are confident that the Holy Father would enthusiastically embrace the clemency project and our efforts to partner with anyone who shares our goal of promoting justice and mercy.

Although not an exact fit, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services that the possibility of scandal must be considered when applying the principles governing cooperation with others.

The bishops state that “cooperation, which in all other respects is morally licit, may need to be refused because of the scandal that might be caused.”

They do, however, add that scandal “can sometimes be avoided by an appropriate explanation of what is in fact being done at the health care facility under Catholic auspices.”

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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