President Obama announced yesterday the commutation of sentences for 214 prisoners, including three Ballard Spahr pro bono clients who applied for sentencing relief through Clemency Project 2014. Ballard Spahr has now won presidential clemency awards for six clients.
Steven W. Suflas and J. Matthew Thornton, lawyers in the firm’s Denver office, petitioned for clemency for a man from rural Georgia sentenced to 23 years for selling $400 worth of crack cocaine. If the man were sentenced today, he would receive a term of just eight years. Yesterday, after serving nearly 17 years, his sentence was commuted.
"When we reached our client to tell him the good news, he was so overcome that he couldn’t even respond," said Mr. Suflas. "To be able to make that type of difference in someone’s life is an incredible feeling. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of this Project."
Clemency Project 2014 addresses nonviolent inmates serving disproportionately harsh prison terms after being sentenced under the mandatory sentencing laws of the 1990s and 2000s. More than 100 Ballard Spahr lawyers from all practice areas have volunteered to represent long-term federal prisoners petitioning for clemency. They join more than 4,000 attorneys nationwide who have volunteered to screen the applications of more than 36,000 federal prisoners who have requested assistance. Thousands have been assigned pro bono lawyers.
One of the other Ballard Spahr clients granted clemency is represented by Philadelphia lawyers Frank A. Chernak and Elanor A. Mulhern. The third is represented by lawyer Barbara R. Beckman and Melissa Margulies, Client Service and Professional Development Counsel, also in Philadelphia.
Marjorie J. Peerce, a white collar criminal defense lawyer in the New York office who has been lauded for her years of service on Clemency Project 2014, guided their efforts and helped prepare submissions. Ms. Peerce was a member of the working group that developed Clemency Project 2014, and serves on the Project’s Steering Committee screens summaries of potential clemency candidates.