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Samuel T. Morison

An experienced appellate lawyer and nationally recognized expert on executive clemency


Federal Executive Clemency

International Regulatory Compliance

Appellate Litigation

General Counsel


University of Virginia School of Law

Center for National Security Law, 2012


Naval War College

International Law Conference, 2011


American University

MA, Philosophy & Social Policy, 2003


University of North Carolina School of Law

JD with honors, 1991


George Mason University

BA, Interdisciplinary Studies, 1987

Top Secret/SCI Clearance


District of Columbia Bar (active)

North Carolina State Bar (inactive)

U.S. Court of Military Commission Review

U.S. District Court for District of Columbia

U.S. Court of Appeals for DC Circuit

U.S. Supreme Court


Certificate of Appreciation

for Contributions to Legal Scholarship, 2010


Attorney General’s Award

for Outstanding Service in FOIA Administration, 2002


William Joyner Award

for Excellence in Writing for Law Journal, 1991


Order of the Coif

Univ. of NC School of Law, 1991


Claude Lambe Fellowship Award

Institute for Humane Studies, 1988

Since 2010, Samuel T. Morison has served as an appellate defense attorney at the U.S. Department of Defense, where he represents detainees convicted of war crimes in military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He is lead appellate counsel for former child soldier Omar Khadr in United States v. Khadr.

From 1997 to 2010, he worked as a staff attorney in the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA), the agency within the Department of Justice responsible for advising the President in the exercise of the pardon power. In that capacity, he reviewed hundreds of petitions for all forms of executive clemency. He also supervised Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background investigations and prepared recommendations to the President regarding the disposition of individual cases.

Relying on his extensive experience at OPA, Mr. Morison helps clients negotiate the complex process of applying for executive clemency—including avoiding the hidden pitfalls that may doom a petition to failure. Mr. Morison has unparalleled understanding of this process.

Mr. Morison graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1991, where he was selected for the Order of the Coif, a legal honorary for students who ranked in the top 10 percent of their law school class. He was also recognized for his legal research and writing skills.

After clerking for Judge William L. Osteen, Sr. on the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, he moved to Washington, D.C. From 1992 to 1997, he practiced law with two leading firms, where he handled a range of litigation matters in several substantive areas, including white-collar crime.



Samuel Morison has published widely in leading academic journals on topics that include the history and theory of executive clemency, the philosophy of law, and the international law of armed conflict. He is regularly asked to review books on criminal justice policy for professional publications.  He is also quoted frequently in the national press on the federal clemency process, including by The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, MSNBC, and many other media outlets. Read more in Featured News.


Accepting Sosa’s Invitation: Did Congress Expand the Subject

Matter Jurisdiction of the ATS in the Military Commissions Act?, 43 GEORGETOWN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 1097 (2012).


History and Tradition in American Military Justice , 33 UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 121 (2011).


Presidential Pardons and Immigration Law , 6 STANFORD JOURNAL OF CIVIL RIGHTS & CIVIL LIBERTIES 253 (2010).


Custom, Reason and the Common Law: A Reply to Hasnas , 2 NEW YORK UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF LAW & LIBERTY 209 (2007).


Rejoinder to Hasnas , 2 NEW YORK UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF LAW & LIBERTY 258 (2007).


The Politics of Grace: On the Moral Justification of Executive Clemency, 9 BUFFALO CRIMINAL LAW REVIEW 1 (2005).


The Crooked Timber of Liberal Democracy, 2005 MICHIGAN STATE LAW REVIEW 461 (review essay on Randy E. Barnett, Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty (Princeton University Press 2004).


Prescriptive Justice and the Weight of History, 38 CREIGHTON LAW REVIEW 1153 (2005).


A Hayekian Theory of Social Justice, 1 NEW YORK UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF LAW & LIBERTY 225 (2005) (symposium issue on the thought of Friedrich A. Hayek). Reprinted in Social Justice: Emerging Dimensions (R. Satyanarayana, ed., Amicus Books, 2010), pp. 26-59.


Review of Allan A. Ryan, Yamashita’s Ghost: War Crimes, MacArthur’s Justice, and Command Accountability (University Press of Kansas, 2012) in 23 LAW & POLITICS BOOK REVIEW 33 (2013).


Review of Neil MacCormick, H.L.A. Hart, Second Edition (Stanford University Press, 2008) in 19 LAW & POLITICS BOOK REVIEW 41 (2009).


Review of Keally McBride, Punishment and Political Order (University of Michigan Press, 2007) in 18 LAW & POLITICS BOOK REVIEW 57 (2008).


Review of Austin Sarat, Mercy on Trial: What it Means to Stop an Execution (Princeton University Press, 2005) in 1 CRIMINAL LAW & PHILOSOPHY 327 (2007).


Review of Paul H. Robinson & Michael T. Cahill, Law Without Justice: Why Criminal Law Doesn’t Give People What They Deserve (Oxford University Press, 2006) in 16 LAW & POLITICS BOOK

REVIEW 510 (2006).

Review of Nathan Hall, Hate Crime (Willan Publishing, 2005) in 16 LAW & POLITICS BOOK REVIEW 42 (2006).




Invited Panelist, “Latina/os and Executive Clemency,” Latina/os and Criminal Justice Conference, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City (Sept. 22, 2016).


Invited Panelist, “Mercy in the Criminal Justice System: The Future of Clemency,” NYU School of Law, Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, 6th Annual Conference (April 15, 2014).


Keynote Speaker, “Whose Justice, Which Law: The Appeal of Omar Khadr,” National Lawyers Guild, University of Denver Sturm College of Law (April 10, 2014).


Keynote Speaker, “Omar Khadr: The Law,” University of Alberta, Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Nov. 12, 2013).


Invited Panelist, “Guantanamo Military Commissions and the Future of International Criminal Law,” American Branch of the International Law Association, Fordham University School of Law (Oct. 26, 2012).



Setting the Record Straight: The Pardon Power is Part of the Rule of Law, JUST SECURITY, July 20, 2018.

Mr. Chairman, the President’s Clemency Power is Beyond Dispute, THE HILL, July 27, 2015.


Pardons Are Rooted in U.S. History and the Constitution, Room for Debate, NEW YORK TIMES, Jan. 26, 2015.


The Drone Memo Makes It Clear: Khadr’s Conviction Lacks Legal Foundation, LAWFARE BLOG, July 14, 2014.


Saving Grace: Salvaging the Pardon Advisory System, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY BLOG, Dec. 12, 2011.


A No-Pardon Justice Department, LOS ANGELES TIMES, Nov. 6, 2010.


Numerous appearances in national media, including MSNBC, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and the Kojo Nnamdi Show.

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