HASGC 2020
Heart of America Sentencing Guidelines Conference
Spring 2021 | Kansas City

HASGC Speaker

Prof. Shon Hopwood
Prof. Shon Robert Hopwood is an appellate lawyer and professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. On October 28, 1998, then defendant Hopwood pled guilty to robbing several banks in Nebraska. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf to 12 years, three months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $134,544 in restitution. Shon Hopwood became well-known as a jailhouse lawyer. He studied in the prison law library and became an accomplished United States Supreme Court practitioner by the time he left prison in 2009.

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 U.S. 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' 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. He also helped inmates from Indiana, Michigan and Nebraska get sentence reductions of 3 to 10 years from lower courts and won honorable mention in the PEN American Center 2008 Prison Writing contest.

Hopwood was released from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons on April 9, 2009. Hopwood holds a B.S. degree from Bellevue University in 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. 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, Shon Hopwood accepted a position as a graduate teaching fellow in Georgetown University Law Center's Appellate Litigation Clinic, where he is pursuing an LL.M. degree. In 2017, he became a professor of law at Georgetown.

Prof. Hopwood is a criminal justice advocate, and he has written about the need for federal sentencing and prison reform.

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