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Douglas Aaron Berman

Director, Drug Enforcement and Policy Center; and Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University
Chapter Member: Central Ohio SSN
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About Douglas

Berman's principal teaching and research focus on the area of criminal law and criminal sentencing, though he also has teaching and practice experience in the fields of legislation and intellectual property. Before becoming a professor, he attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School, served as a law clerk for Judges Jon Newman and Guido Calabresi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and worked at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison in New York City. Berman has authored hundreds of articles, submitted dozens of amicus briefs, and is the creator and sole author of the widely-cited blog Sentencing Law and Policy. He has served as a managing editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter for more than two decades, and also is a managing editor of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. Berman has testified before the U.S House of Representatives and numerous sentencing commissions, and he frequently is consulted by national and state policymakers and public policy groups concerning sentencing law and policy.

No Jargon Podcast


"Reflecting on Parole's Abolition in the Federal Sentencing System" Federal Probation 81 (2017).

Reflects on abolition of parole in the federal sentencing system and its effect on the federal sentencing guidelines. Suggests parole's elimination may have, at least indirectly, exacerbated some of the most problematic aspects of modern federal sentencing, while highlighting recent federal sentencing developments related to the early release of inmates from prison as a kind of "parole light."Concludes by suggesting that advocates for federal sentencing reform consider whether recreating a modest form of parole might be an efficient an effective means to improve the sentencing system. 

"Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices" Federal Sentencing Reporter 30 (2018).

Reviews state efforts to couple marijuana reforms with broad ameliorative legislation to facilitate expungement of prior convictions. Urges policymakers and reform advocates to see the value of linking and leveraging the commitments and spirit of modern marijuana reform and expungement movements. 

Sentencing Guidelines (Reforming Criminal Justice, 2017).

Reviews uneven and often uninspired experiences of the federal system which have often cast a negative light on the "guideline model" of sentencing reform, but highlights why a well-designed guideline structure provides the best means for the express articulation of sound standards to inform and shape individual sentencing outcomes and to promote transparency and the rule of law throughout a jurisdiction's sentencing system. Argues there are challenges to designing and managing the particulars of an effective guideline sentencing system, but that these are challenges that lawmakers should embrace, not avoid. 

"Turning Hope-and-Change Talk into Clemency Action for Nonviolent Drug Offenders" New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement 36 (2010).

Urges active use of President's clemency power, especially for nonviolent drug offenders, and pushes for creation of a Clemency Commission independent from the Department of Justice.

"Re-Balancing Fitness, Fairness, and Finality for Sentences" Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy 4 (2014).

Examines the issue of "sentence finality" in the hope of encouraging more thorough and reflective consideration of the values and interests served— and not served— by doctrines, policies, and practices that may allow or preclude the review of sentences after they have been deemed final. Highlights reasons why sentence finality has only quite recently become an issue of considerable importance. Suggests that history combines with modern mass incarceration in the United States to call for policymakers, executive officials, and judges now to be less concerned about sentence finality, and to be more concerned about punishment fitness and fairness, when new legal developments raise doubts or concerns about lengthy prison sentences. 

"The Challenges of 'Improving' the Modern Death Penalty" Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy 11 (2016).

Seeks to explain the realities of modern death penalty advocacy in order to spotlight problems for any sustained efforts to improve the modern death penalty. Seeks first to expose an enduring disconnect between lay interest and insider advocacy concerning death penalty reform and second to explain the pessimistic concern that even moderate and modest efforts to improve the modern administration of capital punishment may, more often than not, constitute something of a fool's errand.