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Shon R. Hopwood

About Shon R. Hopwood

Shon R Hopwood’s unusual legal journey began not at law school, but federal prison, where he learned to write briefs for other prisoners. Two petitions for certiorari he prepared were later granted review by the United States Supreme Court, and the story of his legal success was the subject of articles in the New York Times, the Saturday Evening Post, and Above the Law. His work has been published in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties and Fordham Law Reviews. He is a consultant at Cockle Law Brief Printing Company, and a student and Gates Public Service Scholar at the University of Washington School of Law. In August of 2012, Crown/Random House will publish his memoir entitled “Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Cases and Finding Redemption.” Through a decade of letters, Shon convinced his kind and beautiful wife, Ann Marie, to marry him. He has one cute but incredibly ornery son, Mark Raymond, and a precious and beautiful baby girl, Grace. Shon enjoys liberty, the writing of the Apostle Paul, Amy Hempel, and Raymond Carver, the music of Radiohead, and watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team. Follow me at: @shonhopwood
3 Dec, 2013

NFL Playoff Predictions

Author |Sports|0 Comments

Hey football fans, we’re entering the final quarter of the season and while the majority of the playoff seeds have already been spoken for despite Seattle being the only team to have clinched a berth, the sixth and final seed in both conferences are up for grabs between about dozen or so teams all desperate to get blown out during Wild Card Weekend.

   Actually, all joking aside, whoever ends up grabbing those sixth seeds will have a good chance to advance past the first round because of the lack of dominance amongst the three and four seeds in both conferences. Still, don’t let that get your hopes up if you’re a fan of any of those teams because it’ll be quite a task to get past any of the top seeds in the divisional and conference rounds of the playoffs this year. Did you see how easily Seattle was able to dismantle New Orleans last night? Good luck trying to win on the road against the 12th man and their world-record-breaking-ly loud crowd.

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29 Oct, 2013

Conversations About the Law Series: Roy T. Englert Jr.

Author |Legal Profession|0 Comments

Over the next couple of months, the CockleBur will provide a series of conversations about the law with a number of prominent legal journalists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and social justice advocates. I chose these particular people because I think they can bring a unique perspective about topics such as advocacy, legal education, the legal profession, how the media covers the law, and how the law can work social justice change.

Our third conversation is with Roy T. Englert Jr., a partner at the Washington D.C. firm of Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP. Prior to co-founding Robbins Russell, Mr. Englert was an Assistant to the Solicitor General and, after his graduation from Harvard Law, he served as a law clerk at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Mr. Englert has argued 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and countless others in federal courts of appeals.

I have known Roy for around three years now. He is one of the smartest people I know. And he is a very kind man, who has always taken the time to answer my questions and give me sound advice.

Q. Thanks for taking the time for this discussion. Someone once told me that you try to read every decision handed down by the Supreme Court. Is that true? And why do you read all of them?

A. Yes, I do read every decision the Supreme Court issues, and almost always on the day of issuance. I feel that reading every decision helps me to understand how the Justices think. By reading everything, I sometimes notice discussions that are relevant in other contexts but wouldn’t be obvious to look for using standard research techniques. And staying on top of everything the Supreme Court says is helpful in litigation in lower courts as well as in Supreme Court litigation.

Q. When you start working on an appeal, do you start thinking about the oral argument even before you begin writing the principal brief?

A. Only in an attenuated sense. The brief is the main event, so it requires plenty of focus in its own right. It does help to think of questions that may ultimately be raised in oral argument, and to think about whether and how to anticipate them in the brief, but the brief is so important in its own right that I’m thinking overwhelmingly about the written advocacy and only a little about the eventual oral advocacy. […]

5 Oct, 2013

Conversations About the Law Series: Josh Blackman

Author |Constitutional Law|0 Comments

Over the next couple of months, the CockleBur will provide a series of conversations about the law with a number of prominent legal journalists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and social justice advocates. I chose these particular people because I think they can bring a unique perspective about topics such as advocacy, legal education, the legal profession, how the media covers the law, and how the law can work social justice change.

Josh Blackman is an Assistant Professor of Law at the South Texas College of Law who specializes in constitutional law, the United States Supreme Court, and the intersection of law and technology. Josh is the author of Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare. He also is the founder and President of the Harlan Institute, the founder of FantasySCOTUS.net, the Internet’s Premier Supreme Court Fantasy League, and blogs at JoshBlackman.com.

Q: Josh great to have you to discuss the law and your new book Unprecedented. First up, what makes teaching the law enjoyable?

A: Hi Shon. First, kudos to you on all of your successes as an author, law student, and soon-to-be clerk. It’s been a pleasure knowing you, and watching you thrive these past few years.

I’ve always had a passion for education. Both of my parents, among various professions, have been teachers. When I was a teen, I was a computer tutor for senior citizens in my neighborhood. Shortly after graduating law school, I founded the Harlan Institute, a non-profit dedicated to teaching high school students about the Supreme Court and the Constitution. While clerking for Judge Gibson in the Western District of Pennsylvania, I had the wonderful experience of teaching two classes alongside him. I quickly realized that I found my calling, and feel so honored that I can do this for a living.

I am now in my second year of teaching, and I absolutely love it. It is hard to describe the joy I get from helping students understand things. That exact moment where a student’s look goes from confused to in control—when the proverbial light bulb goes on—is the best part of the job. Also, it is so much fun to be up in front of students. They bring so much verve and passion to the classroom, which energizes me daily. […]

18 Sep, 2013

My Written Testimony to the U.S. Senate on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Author |Criminal Law|0 Comments

Today, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 (you can read a primer on the JSVA here). The JSVA would allow federal judges to sentence criminal defendants below all mandatory minimum sentencing provisions. And the JSVA would prevent some of the worst injustices in federal […]

17 Sep, 2013

A Couple Weeks of Media Craziness

Author |Prisoners|0 Comments

I kind of figured what would happen after Adam Liptak from the New York Times called to say he was going to write a follow-up piece to his 2010 article about my life and legal successes while in prison. After the article in the Times, my wife Annie and I had a crazy couple of weeks that […]

27 Aug, 2013

Conversations About the Law Series: Kathryn Watts

Author |Supreme Court|0 Comments

Over the next three months, the CockleBur will provide a series of conversations about the law with a number of prominent legal journalists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and social justice advocates. I chose these particular people because I think they can bring a unique perspective about topics such as advocacy, legal education, the legal profession, how the media covers the law, and how the law can work social justice change.

Our first conversation is with Professor Kathryn Watts, the Garvey Schubert Barer Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law, and former clerk to Justice John Paul Stevens.

Q. Thanks for taking the time for this discussion during your sabbatical year. Speaking of which, when law professors are given a year off, do you think law schools should cut that sabbatical short day-for-day that a professor is late is turning in their grades? Just kidding. (And for the record, Professor Watts has never been late.)

A.  Ha!  You seem to be assuming that sabbatical years are a “year off” for professors.  During my sabbatical this year, I am excused from teaching but not from my scholarship, so I will still be working—just on a different mix of work than usual.

Q. You’ve had a big year discussing the U.S. Supreme Court. Please explain your article, titled Judges and Their Papers, which will be published in the NYU Law Review later this year?

A.  My forthcoming article looks at the question of who should own federal judges’ papers and what should happen to the papers once judges leave the bench.  Throughout history in our country, this question has rarely been asked. Instead, it has generally been accepted that the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal judges own their own working papers—meaning papers created by judges relating to their official duties, such as internal draft opinions, confidential vote sheets, and case-related correspondence.  As I describe in my article, this longstanding tradition of private ownership has led to tremendous inconsistency in the treatment of judges’ and justices’ papers. For example, Justice Thurgood Marshall’s papers were donated to the Library of Congress and then publicly released by the Library of Congress just two years after he left the bench, revealing behind-the-scenes details about major cases involving issues like abortion and flag burning. In contrast, Justice David Souter’s papers will remain closed until the 50th anniversary of his retirement—and when they are finally released, they will be located in Concord, New Hampshire.

My article questions why this ad hoc private ownership model has persisted despite the fact that our country’s treatment of presidential records shifted from private to public ownership through the Presidential Records Act of 1978. Furthermore, my article questions why the private ownership of judicial papers has endured even though it has proven ill-equipped to balance the many competing interests at stake, ranging from calls for governmental accountability and transparency on the one hand to the judiciary’s independence, confidentiality and collegiality on the other.

Seizing upon the upcoming 35th anniversary of the Presidential Records Act as a reason to revisit the question of how best to treat judges’ papers, my article argues that judges’ working papers should be treated as governmental property — just as presidential papers are. Although there are important differences between the roles of President and judge, I don’t believe that any of the differences suggest that judicial papers should be treated as a species of private property. Rather, it is my view that the unique position of federal judges, including the judiciary’s independence, should be taken into account when crafting rules that speak to reasonable access to and disposition of judicial papers — not when answering the threshold question of ownership. Ultimately, my claim is that Congress should declare judicial papers public property and should empower the judiciary to promulgate rules implementing the shift to public ownership. These would include, for example, rules governing the timing of public release of judicial papers. […]

28 Jul, 2013

Paying Billions to Warehouse those Addicted to Drugs

Author |Criminal Law|0 Comments

We are one of the few Western countries in the world that deals with drug addicts primarily through incarcerating them, and especially incarcerating those that support their habit by selling small quantities of drugs.

Is this a wise, cost-effective, or even productive solution to the drug problem? And is it even a reasonable way to handle drug addiction? I will let you be the judge.

Consider the case of Terri Pruitt, a woman who was 42 years old by the time of her federal indictment. Ms. Pruitt had a long run of drug addiction, including three prior State court convictions for selling small amounts of drugs, which is fairly predictable addict behavior.

The federal government indicted Ms. Pruitt in 2004, because she sold an ounce of methamphetamine to a government informant in exchange for $1,350. Yes, Ms. Pruitt was not the kind of drug king pen you think of when you think about a federal drug charge.

Given the seriousness of federal penalties for any crime involving drugs, Ms. Pruitt’s prior convictions, and her well-established drug addiction, what sentence do you think Ms. Pruitt received? Or, to put it differently, what sentence is a reasonable one? […]

28 Jul, 2013

Conversations About the Law: A New Series from The CockleBur

Author |Legal Profession|0 Comments

Over the next three months, the CockleBur will provide a series of conversations about the law from a number of prominent legal journalists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and social justice advocates. I chose these particular people because I think they can bring a unique perspective about topics such as advocacy, legal education, how the media […]

7 Jul, 2013

What a Night of Fights! UFC 162

Author |Sports|0 Comments

I don’t know where UFC 162 ranks on the best cards ever rankings, but I do know that it was, to use a phrase uttered during the broadcast, beautiful destruction. And it was definitely the best card of fights we’ve seen this year.

Anderson Silva’s reign as the UFC’s unstoppable champ came to a crashing end. It is hard to believe how long he remained the champ. Almost seven years. I’ve had two children and a host of other huge life changes in that span, and I couldn’t even maintain my weight. Meanwhile, Silva became an international star and maintained virtuoso performances against the UFC’s very best, including former champs Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffith, Dan Henderson, and Rich Franklin, twice.  And he lived up to the hype and pressure time and time again.

He is the best MMA fighter we’ve ever seen. And yes, Jones, Aldo, and all the others are a distant second.

[…]

5 Jul, 2013

Visiting Washington Prisons and Why I Do What I Do

Author |Prisoners|0 Comments

Doesn’t it make you feel foolish when something you’ve done to others comes back around to you?

In the past, I’ve been highly critical of public figures, and not just for what they do or say, but also for what I believed were their motives. What I believed was in their hearts. It didn’t matter if it was a sitting Supreme Court justice, who just handed down, in my view, a particularly detestable opinion; or, for another example, celebrities using their charity platforms for self-promotion and marketing of their branded products.

I would vilify such people as misguided, narcissistic, or wicked, or all three.

This is not unusual. In today’s world of politics, demonization is the tool of the trade.

What I did was wrong. What I’ve learned is that in most cases, you cannot judge a person by their press conference or their twitter feed. And it is even more difficult to judge a person’s heart by their public statements alone.

I will get back to why I’m now a believer in the golden rule: don’t judge others if you don’t want to be judged, yourself. […]