Expert: Mark R. Schlakman

Senior Program Director

Schlakman serves as senior program director for the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and as coordinator of its Human Rights & National Security in the 21st Century lecture series. He is regarded as an expert on Florida’s death penalty process and the state’s policy on restoring former offenders’ civil rights. Schlakman served as principal investigator for the Center’s Florida Bar Foundation/Administration of Justice grant-funded projects relating to the American Bar Association Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team report, which examined the fairness, accuracy and impartiality of Florida’s death penalty process. It also led to a project known as Rethinking Civil Rights Restoration in Florida several years before the ballot initiative that became known as Amendment 4.

Schlakman teaches Immigration and Refugee Law and Policy at the College of Law and two unique interdisciplinary courses on Felony Disenfranchisement in Florida after Amendment 4, and Executive Clemency in Florida including pardon power, sentence commutations, civil rights restoration after Amendment 4 and death penalty case review. He also teaches courses for graduate, honors and undergraduate students in Human Rights & National Security. Schlakman designed the courses, and they are informed by his experiences and engagement abroad, including Afghanistan and the United Nations in Geneva.

Contact Information

Phone: (850) 644-4614
Phone: (850) 766-2146

U.S. Immigration Policy

"Despite an increasing emphasis upon border security and enforcement during the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump, the goal of securing the Southwest border has proven to be elusive, and the federal government’s overall enforcement of immigration laws has been uneven and sometimes misplaced over the years. More recent dynamics seemingly have further polarized public discourse. Florida has an unusual history regarding a range of these issues, including episodic maritime mass migration largely from Cuba and Haiti."

Professor Schlakman served as special counsel to Gov. Lawton Chiles and as the governor’s staff lead regarding a range of these matters, including insofar as federal reimbursement to the state and counties that have been prone to responding to the implications of such episodic migration. He subsequently was retained as a consultant by President George W. Bush’s director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security toward the latter stages of the administration after efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform failed.

Florida Death Penalty

"Issues involving the fairness, accuracy and impartiality of Florida’s death penalty process should concern both supporters and opponents of capital punishment. For perspective, The Florida Bar Criminal Law Section’s Executive Council (comprised of judges, prosecutors and defense counsel) recommended comprehensive review of Florida’s entire death penalty process by all branches of government by a vote of 23-3 in 2011. This would be a reasonable means to evaluate process concerns, especially given that the Florida Legislature abolished the only statutory entity charged with monitoring Florida’s death penalty process and reporting back to all three branches of government earlier that same year purportedly as a cost-avoidance measure. There is no such entity today. Meaningful review of Florida’s entire death penalty process as framed by the Bar’s Criminal Law Section would be in the best interests of all Floridians."

Professor Schlakman served as assistant general counsel and then special counsel to Gov. Lawton Chiles and was responsible for among other things supporting the governor’s review of death penalty cases that had reached a certain point in the appellate process before the governor determined whether to issue a death warrant. Schlakman subsequently served as one of eight members of a diverse Florida-based team of subject matter experts who shaped the American Bar Association’s Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team’s findings and recommendations in 2006 regarding the fairness, accuracy and impartiality of Florida’s death penalty process, many of which are still operative today.