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.

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