March 26, 2005
CrimProf Spotlight: Marquette's Michael O'Hear
"I attribute my interest (and academic career) in criminal law to Professor Dan Freed’s Sentencing Workshop, a remarkable year-long course I took as a student at Yale Law School. The Workshop involved both a considerable reading load of empirical legal scholarship and regular class sessions with a rotating group of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, legislative staffers, and academics. Prior to the course, I had seen criminal law as an ugly agglomeration of archaic doctrines and irrational symbolic politics. Over the course of the year, however, I came to see criminal law as a fascinating, dynamic set of institutional relationships, involving a diverse array of actors with widely varying, but understandable – and often quite laudable – motivations. There was, I found, some method to the apparent madness of the criminal justice system. I was inspired, moreover, by Dan’s implicit confidence that all of the diverse actors could find common ground and that the system could be made more just through rational, open-minded dialogue. I have viewed my subsequent academic career as an attempt to contribute to that dialogue.
I grew up in Fort Wayne, IN. (I used to identify Fort Wayne as the hometown of Frank Burns, but I find that my cultural references from growing up in the 1970’s are increasingly lost on my students.) Both my undergraduate and law degrees are from Yale. After law school, I remained in Connecticut for another year to clerk for United States District Court Judge Janet Arterton, a wonderful mentor who inspired me with her dogged commitment to do justice in all cases. I then practiced for three years with the Chicago law firm Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal. As in many big firms, criminal practice opportunities were limited, but I took advantage of what was available, including a pro bono death penalty case that I continue to work on seven years later. I spent the majority of my time, though, on environmental matters, including criminal and civil litigation, regulatory work, and transactional due diligence.
In 2000, I fulfilled my long-time dream of becoming a full-time teacher and scholar by joining the faculty at Marquette Law School. (Fortunately, my ever-gracious wife Jennifer consented to the move to Milwaukee, an underrated city that both of us have since fallen in love with.) I have taught a number of environmental law classes, but my scholarship and, increasingly, my teaching have focused on criminal law. I now teach Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Sentencing, and Post-Conviction Remedies. My scholarship has concentrated on federal sentencing, with particular attention to some of the important institutional relationships that shape the criminal justice system, such as the relationship between federal judges and prosecutors and the relationship between federal and state law enforcement agencies. I often bring public choice analysis to bear in studying such relationships. I am also an editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter and a co-author of a treatise on asset forfeiture. Last, and certainly not least, I am the proud father of a three-year old (Lauren) and a one-year old (Daniel).
My articles include the following: Sentencing the Green-Collar Criminal; Federalism and Drug Control; Statutory Interpretation and Direct Democracy: Lessons From the Drug Treatment Initiatives; National Uniformity / Local Uniformity: Reconsidering the Use of Departures to Reduce Federal-State Sentencing Disparities; Blue-Collar Crimes / White-Collar Criminals: Sentencing Elite Athletes Who Commit Violent Crimes; and Remorse, Cooperation, and “Acceptance of Responsibility.”
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