There are a number of story lines running through my memoir, LAW MAN: criminal justice, love, faith, redemption, and family. But one of the other major story lines, and quite honestly the hook that got the book published, is my story about the Supreme Court.
For those of you unfamiliar with how I became acquainted with the Supreme Court … In 2002, I wrote my first petition for certiorari to the Court on behalf of a fellow prisoner friend of mine, John Fellers. John had recently been denied a new trial by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and he wished to have the Court review the Eighth Circuit’s decision. The petition was a long shot: you probably have better odds of winning a state lottery than having the Court grant a case prepared by a prisoner rather than a lawyer. But it happened.
In LAW MAN, I tell the story of the Fellers case including how I worked with former Solicitor General Seth Waxman and lawyers from his firm, WilmerHale. Below is a small snippet of that story:
I had been thinking a lot about the Supreme Court anyway. History turns on the actions of Congress and the president, and of course on tragedies, wars, booms, and busts. But when you examine the big moments when the conscious decisions of men and women have reshaped our lives, those decisions have often come down from the Supreme Court.
The language of the Court is interesting all by itself. The men and women who argue cases there, and who sit on the bench as justices, seemed to me a breed apart. They are warriors who use words, employing remarkable memories and razor logic as deftly as swords in mortal battle. And lives hang upon their skills. Darth Vader robes and marble chambers aside, there is something fascinating about that. They are almost like more highly evolved creatures. I have never been too easy to impress, but I was constantly amazed as I read the transcripts of these people who think on their feet so brilliantly, with a nation’s future or a human life at stake. If it were a game, which it is not, it would be the best and hardest mental game in the world.
So, like a lost tourist who can’t even read the street signs, I started poking around the Supreme Court law books on behalf of John J. Fellers.