News Roundup

A truly incredible story has culminated over the past few days. In 1998, Shon Hopwood was sentenced to 147 months in federal prison for bank robbery. He became a jailhouse lawyer, and in 2002, he filed his first petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. Former Solicitor General Seth Waxman described it in the New York Times as one of the best petitions he had ever read, and the Court agreed to hear the case, ruling unanimously for Hopwood’s “client.” In 2005, it granted certiorari in another of Hopwood’s cases, and Hopwood also won several lower court cases. When Hopwood got out of prison, Waxman and others encouraged him to go to law school. He’s now a rising 3L at the University of Washington, and Legal Times reports here that he has just accepted a clerkship with Judge Janice Rogers Brown on the prestigious D.C. Circuit. A Supreme Court clerkship seems like a real possibility for the following year. Meanwhile, United States District Judge Richard Kopf, who sent Hopwood to prison, got wind of the story. The judge happens to be a blogger, and he wrote here about three things he takes from the story: (1) “Hopwood deserves all the credit in the world”; (2) “Janice Rogers Brown is a hero”; and (3) “Hopwood proves that my sentencing instincts suck. When I sent him to prison, I would have bet the farm and all the animals that Hopwood would fail miserably as a productive citizen when he finally got out of prison. My gut told me that Hopwood was a punk–all mouth, and very little else. [I] was wrong.” It’s worth clicking through to see the comment that Hopwood posted on the judge’s blog, and the judge’s response. Also, I haven’t read it, but Hopwood’s book about his time in prison, Law Man, seems to have received good reviews. Amazing.

In other news:

Prestigious Post for Justice Martin. The Senior Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, Mark Martin, will chair the ABA’s Judicial Division starting this weekend. The News and Observer has the story here. Congratulations to Justice Martin!

Blog Cited by Court of Appeals. This blog was cited by the court of appeals in State v. Derbyshire earlier this week. The blog has previously been cited at least twice in law reviews, and many times in the media, but as far as I am aware, this is the first citation in an appellate opinion.

Job Opening at the School of Government. The indigent defense education group here at the School of Government has just posted a job opportunity for a Program Attorney. It’s a full time job “develop[ing] and offer[ing] training for assigned counsel and public defenders for indigent persons in criminal and civil cases.”

Don’t Drink and Walk. The dangers of drinking and driving get more publicity, but as the Washington Post just reported here, “[o]ver a third of the pedestrians killed in 2011 had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit for driving.” Government officials belabored the obvious insightfully pointed out that “[a]lcohol can impair pedestrians’ judgment and lead them to make bad decisions.”

Judge Lets Loose. Finally, we all know that TV judges, like Judge Judy, get to talk tough and call it like they see it. Actual judges are expected to be more restrained and decorous, but Ohio judge Amy Salerno may have fallen a bit short of expectations. After a jury acquitted a criminal defendant in her courtroom, she came off the bench and told the jury that “they had gotten the verdict wrong . . . [that] 99 percent of the time, the jury gets it right [but now it’s] 98 percent. They brought that percentage down by getting it wrong.” The judge’s conduct caused one juror to burst into tears and another to request a police escort home “after the response from the judge and menacing looks from friends and family of the prosecuting witness.” Above the Law has the story here.

3 thoughts on “News Roundup”

  1. Shon Hopwood is the epitome of a humanitarian. I chose to pipe in quickly in the event there is even a whisper, “well, jailhouse lawyers have nothing but time on their hands, no wonder he got good at reading.”

    In August 2010 Shon caught wind of little ol’ me fighting tooth and nail to the SCOTUS pro se’ for my husband, William, and he called from Nebraska. William was in a homeless shelter for veterans and I was at my wit’s end. Shon and his wife, Annie took the reigns and never looked back — got pro bono help from Jacob Huebert and his fiancé Allison, and the four of them wrote the Petition for Cert… and they foot the bill!! This whole time, he was putting himself through school and had a baby on the way.

    Cert was denied, but I drove 10 hours round trip to thank him — I didn’t feel like enough, though. Then, when round two for William came and went through the revolving door of the US District Court and habeas was dismissed, and a Cert of Appealability was denied — I took everything that Shon, et al had written and got a COA from the Fourth Circuit.

    All of a sudden the 4th told me to get a lawyer and I called Greg Nevins, who called the ACLU, who called Erwin Chemerinsky and Dechert Law sent Ben Rosenberg and Joshua Hess. History is happening all around us and I give much credit to Shon and Co. – because of what they did – I won the chance to be heard.

    MacDonald v. Moose, 710 F. 3d 154 – Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit 2013

    Lawman is a good book, written by a great man

  2. “Every two weeks, on the average, somewhere in North Carolina, usually late at night along a rural highway, somebody gets drunk, lies down in the road and is run over and killed.
    ” ‘In most cases, the victim is intoxicated almost to the point of being comatose,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Harris, a state medical examiner who is one of the authors of a report, ‘While Lying in the Road — The Prone Pedestrian.’ The report documents 136 such fatalities in North Carolina over five years ending in 1984….”
    — From “A Rural Phenomenon: Lying-in-the-Road Deaths” in the New York Times (Jun 30, 1986)


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