Something Cool

From Bank Robber to Supreme Court Practitioner


It wasn’t until he was thrown into prison for armed robbery that Shon R. Hopwood found his calling in life. While serving a 10-year sentence for holding up banks in rural Nebraska, Johnson spent time in the prison law library, where he studied procedures for filing appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. His very first petition for certiorari helped a fellow inmate, John Fellers, get his case heard by the high court, something only a handful of appeals receive out of thousands of requests each year.  His draft was so good that Seth Waxman, a former United States solicitor general, agreed to take up Fellers’ case—as long as Hopwood continued to assist. “It was probably one of the best cert. petitions I have ever read,” Waxman told The New York Times. “It was just terrific.” Hopwood went on to help inmates in Indiana, Michigan and Nebraska get their sentences reduced, before he was freed from prison. He’s planning to go to law school, and has tried his hand at fiction writing as well. The PEN American Center gave Hopwood an honorable mention in their 2008 Prison Writing Contest.  SOURCE: Allgov.com

*** REVISED: 2/11/10 ***

I think this is cool.  If a person claims they can’t get rehabilitation in prison, I say they should remember this guy.  He’s not the first either.  I could never understand how the men (and women) that are in our detention facilities, will take what they learned from “the streets” behind prison walls.  Instead of taking advantage of what is available to them [behind bars] they will turn that “time out/wake up call” into the same thing they knew on the streets!  Access to law books (Hopwood took advantage), a GED or even a degree– it’s absurd for me to realize that most will not recognize their “second chance”.  To the contrary, skies the limit if you take advantage of the system!  Unfortunately,  some who go through that revolving door of prison life, what they identify with becomes the norm. Seems they are cowardice because they refuse to abandon their self-confined “way of life”. I mean really, if your personal inmate record shows you didn’t stab someone while on lockdown, but you could have taken advantage of the G.E.D. program and didn’t… do you really think a potential employer would take a chance on you?  Inclusion back into society is not only about restraint, it’s about initiative.  Seems revolving/first time prisoners are mostly cowards to me because “the hustle” is all they’ve known.  Seems to me, that is where their allegiance lies.  I guess it’s all about choices.  Hey– whatever– KUDOS to Shon Hopwood for turning his life around!!!!  The guy was smarter than he knew and “slammed dunked” on any degreed person in that field!  To me, Hopwood is a good example of turning a bad decision into something smart.  Smart enough to recognize his opportunity!

2 thoughts on “From Bank Robber to Supreme Court Practitioner

  1. As a person who has experienced ex cons for a time I want to believe they can do right. I wish I was sure. They can change there lives but they don’t know this. I have a son who has created so many heartaches in our lives. All I want to say is thanks for the post. I think hopwood did a good thing too. others can do the same.

    JENNINGS

    • Thank you for weighing in. I’ve never had a personal experience with an “ex-con”, although I wish I could have traveled that road. I like to think that some people who were convicted of a crime, can do better. Breaking through this type of mold is a hard thing for those who have lived by own laws since pre-adolescence. I’m simply HAPPY to know that there’s a new “poster child” for that kind of breakthrough. Race nor gender makes a difference because choice is what matters. Making realistic choices is key! “A person is only limited by their thoughts”– a personal quote I’ve lived by for many years.

      Thanks for engaging our subject today! I didn’t expect that. (Shocked and smiles :))

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