Hopwood in 2012
Shon Robert Hopwood
June 11, 1975
David City, Nebraska, U.S.
|Residence||Brookland, Washington, D.C., U.S.|
Geneva, Nebraska, U.S.
|Education||Bellevue University (B.S.) |
University of Washington (J.D.)
Georgetown University (LL.M.)
|Occupation||Appellate Lawyer at Georgetown University Law Center|
|Petition for Writ of Certiorari in Fellers v. United States; Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption|
Shon Robert Hopwood (born June 11, 1975) is an American appellate lawyer and professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. Hopwood became well-known as a jailhouse lawyer who served time in prison for bank robbery. While in prison, he started spending time in the law library, and became an accomplished United States Supreme Court practitioner by the time he left in 2009.
Hopwood is the son of Mark Robert Hopwood and Becky Richards who raised him in a Christian home. He grew up in David City, Nebraska, approximately an hour’s drive northwest of Lincoln, Nebraska. Hopwood is the eldest of five siblings. Hopwood excelled on standardized tests. He was a high school basketball standout, earning himself a scholarship to Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska. After Hopwood realized he was a mediocre talent in basketball, he became disillusioned and did not go to classes.
After leaving school, Hopwood joined the United States Navy. He was stationed in the Persian Gulf. While in the Navy, he guarded warships with shoulder-mounted Stinger missiles. He almost died from acute pancreatitis in a Bahrain hospital, and was discharged from the Navy.
Hopwood pled guilty on October 28, 1998, to robbing several banks in Nebraska. United States District Judge Richard Kopf sentenced Hopwood to 12 years, three months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered $134,544 in restitution. Kopf was stunned by Hopwood's later transformation and said, "my gut told me that [he] was a punk — all mouth, and very little else. My viscera was wrong." In Kopf's own opinion, "Hopwood proves that my sentencing instincts suck."
He prepared his first petition for certiorari for a fellow inmate on a prison typewriter in 2002. Since Hopwood was not a lawyer, the only name on the brief was that of the other prisoner, John Fellers. Once the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, he worked with Seth Waxman, a former United States Solicitor General, in preparing the case. Waxman stated that the petition for writ of certiorari was probably one of the best he had ever seen. The court received 7,209 petitions that year from prisoners and others too poor to pay the filing fee, and it agreed to hear just eight of them. One was Fellers v. United States. The Court, in a 9-0 decision, found that police had acted unconstitutionally in questioning Fellers, who had been convicted of a drug conspiracy. Fellers's sentence was ultimately reduced by four years.
In 2005, the Supreme Court granted a second cert petition prepared by Hopwood, vacating a lower court decision and sending the case back for a fresh look. Hopwood has also helped inmates from Indiana, Michigan and Nebraska get sentence reductions of 3 to 10 years from lower courts.
Law school and legal career
Hopwood holds a B.S. degree from Bellevue University in Bellevue, Nebraska and a J.D. degree from the University of Washington School of Law, where he was a Gates Public Service Law Scholar. He accepted an offer to spend a year working as a law clerk for Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after he graduated from law school.
On September 4, 2014, the Supreme Court of Washington approved the recommendation made by the Character and Fitness Committee of the Washington State Bar Association, permitting Hopwood to take the Washington bar examination, and to become an attorney if he passed. His ability to become of a member of the Washington State Bar Association was named one of the 14 memorable National Law Journal Supreme Court of the United States stories of 2014. In 2015, Hopwood became a licensed lawyer in the state of Washington.
In 2015, Hopwood accepted a position as a graduate teaching fellow in Georgetown University Law Center's Appellate Litigation Clinic, where he was pursuing an LL.M. degree. In 2017, Hopwood became a professor of law at Georgetown.
Writings and views
Hopwood's memoir, Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption, co-written with Dennis Burke, was published in August 2012. In the memoir, Hopwood details both his life as a jailhouse lawyer and his romance with his wife, Ann Marie Hopwood, who Hopwood wrote during eight years of his imprisonment. Law Man received critical acclaim from a number of book reviewers.
Hopwood is a criminal justice advocate, and he has written about the need for federal sentencing and prison reform. Hopwood told an ACLU event that his home state of Nebraska should reform sentencing guidelines for prisoners, keep good time credits and not build a new prison.
Contributions to scholarly journals
- Clarity in Criminal Law, American Criminal Law Review (2016)
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: Clerk Training and the Success of Supreme Court Certiorari Petitions
- The Not So Speedy Trial Act, 89 Wash. L. Rev. 709 (2014)
- Preface: Failing to Fix Sentencing Mistakes: How the System of Mass Incarceration May Have Hardened the Hearts of the Federal Judiciary, 43 Geo. L.J. Ann. Rev. Crim. Proc. iii (2014)
- Slicing Through the Great Legal Gordian Knot: Ways to Assist Pro Se Litigants in Their Quest for Justice, 80 Fordham L. Rev. 1229 (2011) 
- A Sunny Deposition: How the in Forma Pauperis Statute Provides an Avenue for Indigent Prisoners to Seek Depositions Without Accompanying Fees, 46 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 195 (2011)
- From a Prison Law Library to the New York Times, Informal Opinion, Champion, November 2010
In the media
- Liptak, Adam (February 8, 2010), "A Mediocre Criminal, but an Unmatched Jailhouse Lawyer", New York Times, retrieved May 23, 2010
- "Seattle News and Events - Shon Hopwood's Journey From the Big House to". Seattle Weekly.
- Tammy Real-McKeighan/News Editor. "Hopwood to speak at annual prayer breakfast". Fremont Tribune.
- "Two men sentenced to prison for bank robberies". The Grand Island Independent.
- RILEY JOHNSON / Lincoln Journal Star. "Former prisoner pushes prison reform". JournalStar.com.
- Shon Hopwood, The News, archived from the original on 2010-08-19
- Shon Hopwood
- "Inmate Locator".
- Long, Katherine (September 27, 2012). "Former Robber in 2nd year at UW law school". Seattle Times.
- Mauro, Tony (October 6, 2014). "From Felony Conviction to Bar Exam". National Law Journal. Retrieved December 5, 2014.
- "Unusual Law Clerk Hire for D.C. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown - The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times".
- In re Hopwood, no. 201,345-7, (Wash. Sup. Ct. Sep. 4, 2014)
- Mauro, Tony. "14 Memorable NLJ Supreme Court Stories of 2014". nationallawjournal.com. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
- "Lawyer Search". Washington State Bar Association. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
- Santos, Michael. "The inspiring story of an ex-bank robber who turned into America's best jailhouse lawyer". Business Insider. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
- Long, Katherine. "Former bank robber helped by Gates fund now professor at Georgetown Law School". Retrieved 8 April 2017.
- Svriuga, Susan. "He robbed banks and went to prison. His time there put him on track for a new job: Georgetown law professor". Washington Post. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
- Hopwood, Shon; Burke, Dennis Michael (2012). Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption. Crown. ISBN 9780307887832. OCLC 761846778.
- KIRKUS REVIEW: LAW MAN - My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption, July 12, 2012
- Seggel, Heather (August 2012), "Beating the System", BookPage
- Pitt, David (June 14, 2010), "Law Man", Booklist Online
- Hopwood, Shon (December 21, 2012). "I Got a Second Chance After Robbing Banks-and Others Should, Too". the Atlantic.
- Hopwood, Shon (August 20, 2012). "Giving Prisoners a Second Chance Means Removing the Barriers to Reentry". Huffington Post.
- Hopwood, Shon (2016-09-14). "Clarity in Criminal Law". Rochester, NY.
- Blake, William; Hacker, Hans; Hopwood, Shon (2015-08-13). "Seasonal Affective Disorder: Clerk Training and the Success of Supreme Court Certiorari Petitions". Rochester, NY.
- "PREFACE: FAILING TO FIX SENTENCING MISTAKES: HOW THE SYSTEM OFMASS INCARCERATION MAY HAVE HARDENED THE HEARTS OF THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY".
- "Champion - From a Prison Law Library to the New York Times".
- Kroft, Steve. "Meet a convicted felon who became a Georgetown law professor". CBS News. Retrieved 9 July 2018.