Incarceration, Second Chances, and Clerkships

Shon HopwoodShon Hopwood’s rebirth continues. Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the “second highest court in the land,” the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, has hired Mr. Hopwood to serve as a law clerk in her chambers beginning next term. For Mr. Hopwood, this is another in a string of victories in his legal career. Sweet victories within this story of redemption, for Mr. Hopwood is a former convict.

Because I do what I do – advising and supporting law students and lawyers through the clerkship application process, I can’t help but be curious about Mr. Hopwood’s clerkship applications. Sure, he has successful petitions for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court under his belt (and a unanimous Supreme Court win in one of those cases) and support from some of the most familiar names in the legal profession, Adam Liptak and Seth Waxman, making him an atypical and ideal clerkship candidate. I still wonder whether and how he disclosed his criminal past in his cover letter and resume. Did it come up during his clerkship interview? What other judges called him in for an interview? Will the Supreme Court entertain his clerkship application the way it entertained his petitions for cert?

Judge Brown hasn’t spoken publicly about the hire, and no one should expect her to do so, but since the announcement of her decision to hire Hopwood, Judge Richard G. Kopf, the judge who sentenced Hopwood to 147 months in prison, has blogged about his sentencing instincts, which he says must suck in light of this development. There is quite an interesting exchange between Judge Kopf and Hopwood in the comments section of the blog. Certainly, it can be useful to reflect on the past, though not to dwell, and I can’t help but wonder what this means for the future of clerkships. Will Shon Hopwood’s success mean that the doors will open a little wider for other non-traditional clerkship candidates? Will it mean that judges will take Judge Brown’s lead and allow themselves to look for clerks in the recesses of the legal playing field? Only time will tell and we’ll have to have patience to await the larger implications of this clerkship hire, probably another lesson we can take from Mr. Hopwood.


At Judicial Clerk Review (JCR), we provide tailored support to law students and lawyers in applying for judicial clerkships. JCR offers a multi-level review and revision of written application materials and mock interviews. E-mail us today ( for a FREE consultation.


One thought on “Incarceration, Second Chances, and Clerkships

  1. Pingback: Judge Richard Kopf – As Inspirational As The Robber Turned Law Clerk He Sentenced To Prison | thelegalreformer

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