Congratulations Shon!

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Now, read Tony Mauro’s beautifully written article that appears today, entitled From Felony Conviction to Bar Exam. After that, read Shon’s personal reflections entitled Graduation: From Federal Prison to Juris Doctorate.

Shon and his pretty family upon graduation from the University of Washington School of Law, where he was a Gates public service law scholar.

Shon and his pretty family upon graduation from the University of Washington School of Law, where he was a Gates public service law scholar.

Tony Mauro and Howard Bashman have my personal thanks for following Shon’s journey and keeping his struggles and aspirations in our consciousness. They have done an important public service by reminding we cynical types that redemption is possible in the real world just as it is in story books–and that’s even true for a bank robber turned would-be lawyer like the truly remarkable Shon Hopwood.*


*For my previous posts on Shon see here and here.

15 responses

  1. Judge, I have been following Shon (and you) ever since I heard your interview on Public Radio. I am confident his success would have been impossible without your recommendation! I, too, adore stories of redemption – we’re all human and all make mistakes! HOWEVER, WORK is required to return from the pit – not everyone is willing to put forth the required effort!

  2. Theresa,

    You make an important point, and Shon is a good exemplar of someone who has worked rather than merely talked. All the best.


  3. Thanks for the kind words, Judge Kopf. Theresa is likely right: it could have only helped my cause to have wonderful letters of support from you and Judge Coughenour. I was very blessed to have so many people support me.

    Now the real work begins. Studying for the bar exam!

    Many blessings to you.

  4. I find this exceedingly problematic, not for the Shons who got a second chance, but for the legions of George Anastaplos who never got a FIRST one. The hazing ritual known as the character and fitness exam is a land due process forgot, devoid of discernible standards or other elementary constitutional protections.

    I would ask the Judge to review in re Anastaplo and tell me with a straight face that Shon is deserving to become a lawyer, but Georges Anastaplo was not.

    When I approached the bar, I had to go through this. My attorney — a part-time magistrate, who eventually became a judge — literally advised me to lie to the Examiners. And my experience is not unique. I have a friend who passed the CA bar recently, and his attorney — a nationally-recognized expert in this field — flat-out told him to lie. To display contrition, when no offense was committed, and none was warranted. How many others have been given that advice?

    The inquisition is quite literally a trial by ambush. You don’t have an opportunity to prepare, and rank hearsay from your worst enemies is considered. The decisions are arbitrary and capricious, and state supreme courts display a deference bordering on the obsequious. And if your license is denied, they don’t even have the decency to tell you why. But Shon’s experience is not unique: all you need to do, even if you were convicted cocaine dealer, is have a father who is a judge and political crony, and you are golden.

    Things are no better in bar court. If you anger the wrong people, you will have your license yanked, and as the decisions are unpublished and have no precedential value. The rules are so vague that spitting on the sidewalk is good enough. Cf., City of Chicago v. Morales. And while all lawyers are equal before the bar, some lawyers are more equal than others. One representative example is at All the attorney did is win his case, and make the judge look like the buffoon he is. That was good enough for exile.

    The system doesn’t keep bad people from joining the Bar, but it keeps a lot of deserving people out. See generally, the writings of Deborah Rhode. It used to keep women, blacks, Jews, and those with names ending in vowels from the Bar. Now, it keeps those who have cultivated powerful enemies out.

    As one wag put it, “moral fitness to be a lawyer is almost indistinguishable from moral fitness to be a prostitute.” I wouldn’t go that far, but would submit that the process has kept a lot of good people out, while letting a lot of bad people become judges.

    For every Shon, you all know at least one deserving Bar candidate who got screwed by corrupt state admissions committees. And judges always turn a blind eye to BarCrime.

    Isn’t it time we put a merciful end to this nonsense? To give other Shons a fair shot at redemption, and other deserving candidates, at least a first chance?

  5. Judge – Do you happen to have a link to the NPR interview you and Shon were part of back in 2013. Or, perhaps a link to a transcript of the segment?

  6. Judge:
    First California allows illegals to be licensed as attorneys (one wonders where such a person would be employed given that it would literally be a crime to hire them) and now Mr. Hopwood is likely to become a member of the Washington State Bar despite his criminal background. At what point do we say a person legitimately lacks the character and fitness worthy of the privilege of being a lawyer? Mr. Hopwood committed a serious federal felony for which he was rightfully prosecuted, convicted and severely punished. Perhaps we can debate the sentence he originally received but can there be any doubt that our profession is degraded when such a person is allowed to become an actual lawyer?

  7. I’m afraid that that horse left the barn a long time ago. As Alan Dershowitz once said, any group that has a reputation like that has done something to deserve it.

    Philosophically, I’m in Shon’s corner. I think we should be willing to give felons a chance to turn their lives around.

    And since when did being a lawyer become a privilege?

    I agree with Curmudgeon. The Bar does such a lousy job of keeping the the scum out that it cease and desist.

  8. I can just see it now: Washington’s bar will be inundated with applicants from other states who have been arbitrarily denied bar admission, pointing out that they have committed one less felony than Shon Hopwood.

    “Character and fitness” committees should be abolished.

  9. Truly a shame that anyone has anything negative at all to say about Shon’s accomplishments. Shon continues to amaze me. Onward and upward, Shon!

  10. Consider for a minute that Shon is paving the way for other similarly-situated individuals. I cannot think of a more deserving person. The world is a better place because of you.

  11. Pingback: I'm Sitting for the Bar Exam - Shon Hopwood - Author of Law Man Shon Hopwood – Author of Law Man

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