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Shon Hopwood is an Associate Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. Shon’s unusual legal journey began not at law school, but federal prison, where he learned to write briefs for other prisoners while serving a 12-year sentence for robbing banks. Two petitions for certiorari he prepared were later granted review by the United States Supreme Court, and he won cases for other prisoners in federal courts across the country. Shon’s story has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, NPR, and on 60 Minutes.

Shon received a J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law as a Gates Public Service Law Scholar. He clerked for Judge Janice Rogers Brown at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He then served as a Teaching Fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center’s Appellate Litigation Program, where he litigated criminal, immigration, civil rights, and federal statutory cases in federal courts of appeals.

Shon co-wrote a memoir entitled Law Man: Memoir of a Jailhouse Lawyer, and his scholarship on courts and the criminal justice system has been published in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties, Fordham Law Review, Washington Law Review, and American Criminal Law Review as well as Georgetown Law Journal’s Annual Review of Criminal Procedure. He serves on the Board of Directors for Families Against Mandatory Minimums and is the co-founder of Prison Professors L.L.C., a company dedicated to teaching prisoners how to transform their lives from the inside. He frequently speaks about the vital need for criminal justice reform.


  • Restoring the Historical Rule of Lenity as a Canon, 95 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 918-951 (2020). [Link

  • The Misplaced Trust in DOJ’s Expertise on Criminal Justice Policy, 118 Mich. L. Rev. 1181-1203 (2020) (reviewing Rachel Elise Barkow, Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration (2019)). [Link

  • The Effort to Reform the Federal Criminal Justice System, 128 Yale L.J.F. 791-817 (2019). [Link]

  • Second Looks & Second Chances, 41 Cardozo L. Rev. 83-120 (2019). [Link]

  • Improving Federal Sentencing, 87 UMKC L. Rev. 79-96 (2018). [Link]

  • Clarity in Criminal Law, 54 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 695-749 (2017). [Link]

  • 66 J. Legal Educ. 445-454 (2017) (reviewing Marie Gottschalk, Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics (2015)). [Link

  • The Not So Speedy Trial Act, 89 Wash. L. Rev. 709-745 (2014). [Link]

  • Note, 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. 195-222 (2011). [Link]


  • How Joe Biden Can Fix the Broken Clemency Process, The Appeal, Jan. 11, 2021 [Link]

  • Shon R. Hopwood, The Legal Profession Puts Itself on an Unsupportable Pedestal, Student Law., Jan.-Feb. 2019, at 4. [Link]

  • Krista A. Dolan & Shon R. Hopwood, Kentucky’s Penal Code Prognosis: Is Further Treatment Necessary?, Ky. Bench & Bar, Mar. 2015, at 5-8. [Link]


  • Brief of Amici Curiae Due Process Institute, Cato Institute, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Rutherford Institute, District of Columbia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and Law Professors in Support of Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, Leyva v. United States, No. 19-5796 (U.S. Oct. 1, 2019). [Link]

  • Brief for Professor Shon Hopwood as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner, Lagos v. United States, No. 16-1519 (U.S. Mar. 5, 2018).[Link]

  • Reply Brief, Crouse v. Caldwell, No. 17-242 (U.S. Oct. 26, 2017).

  • Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, Crouse v. Caldwell, No. 17-242 (U.S. Aug. 11, 2017).


  • Prison to Proprietorship: Entrepreneurship Opportunities for the Formerly Incarcerated: Hearing Before the H. Comm. on Small Bus., 116th Cong., Oct. 23, 2019 (Statement of Shon Hopwood) (CIS-No.: 2020-H721-201959). [Link]

Selected Publications


+ Education

LL.M., Georgetown University

J.D., University of Washington

B.A., Bellevue University

+ Admissions

U.S. Supreme Court

District Court for the District of Columbia

U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

District of Columbia Bar

Washington (State) Bar (inactive)

Curriculum Vitae


1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Suite 200

Washington, DC 20006

(202) 769-4080


Shon Hopwood


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