Tomorrow (1:40pm, Friday, February 14), everyone is invited to join our 1L class for an event featuring Shon Hopwood, Gates Scholar at the University of Washington School of Law, and author of “Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases and Finding Redemption.” Following the event we will be hosting a book signing in the atrium. Shon’s travel to Pepperdine and his speech was made possible by Pepperdine’s Student Chapter of The Federalist Society. Shon’s story is rich in details about crime, punishment and redemption. It is also one of Christian faith, told in the book and briefly explained by Shon and his wife Annie in their testimonial about rebellion, sin and death.
You can also hear more about Shon and his path to a DC Circuit Clerkship in this 12 minute NPR story The Incredible Case Of The Bank Robber Who’s Now A Law Clerk.
About the book:
Growing up in a small town in Nebraska, Shon Hopwood is a good kid from a good family, a burgeoning basketball star whose parents have started a local church. But when the basketball cheers fade and his attempts at college and military service don’t pan out, he feels trapped in a life of everyday sameness. When his equally adrift best friend suggests robbing a bank, it seems like a way to relieve the boredom, make something happen. Shon commits five robberies in all before he is caught and sentenced to a dozen years in federal prison. At twenty-three, he fears his life is over.
Law Man is a memoir of an impossible-but-true comeback. Shon movingly describes his descent from basketball star to bank robber, followed by a decade in a maximum-security prison. Mortified by the crimes he’s committed, buoyed by the comradeship of others, and comforted by encouraging letters of support from the townspeople he’s left behind, Shon vows to survive prison and make amends. First, though, he has to survive the gangs, learn the ways of prison violence, and find a way to tamp down the smoldering resentments that flare on the cellblock or out in the “yard.” Two factors prove his salvation. The first is a job in the library, which inspires a vision of one day becoming a paralegal, maybe even a real lawyer. The second is the totally unexpected interest shown in him by Annie, a beautiful girl from his Nebraska town.
Shon uses his skill for practicing law to save his fellow inmates by writing appeals. Then, a fellow inmate asks Shon to write a million-to-one petition to the United States Supreme Court. Eager for a challenge, he promises to do his best—and from the bowels of a prison and with no formal legal training, he embarks on an unlikely career as perhaps the best jailhouse lawyer in American history. He carefully constructs a hugely complicated “cert petition” that asks the Supreme Court to take notice of certain legal anomalies in his friend’s case, irregularities no one else has noticed. And by the time Shon walks out of Illinois’s Pekin Prison a decade later, he’s pulled off a series of legal miracles and won the gratitude of innumerable inmates.
Studded with against-all-odds legal maneuvers as well as attempts by Shon to coach Annie through successive bouts of anorexia and see his dad through a downward cancer spiral, Law Man fires the mind and touches the heart.
Assistant Dean for Student Life