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29 Cent-per-Hour Jailhouse Lawyer Under Investigation

Publication Date: 
February 27, 2008
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog
Dan Slater

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that Jeffrey Fisher will argue the Burgess case before the Supreme Court, a case that was granted "against all odds":

The saga of jailhouse lawyer Michael Ray, the feel-good movie legal story of the year, has run up against a new antagonist: South Carolina’s Attorney General Henry McMaster. According to this AP story, the authorities are investigating Ray, who helped a fellow inmate win Supreme Court review of his drug possession case, for practicing law without a license.

Here’s what happened: Ray, 42, who’s nearing the end of a six-year sentence for real-estate fraud, has no college or law school education. Yet he drafted an appeal for pro-se litigant Keith Lavon Burgess, who is in prison for crack posession. Ray argued that a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence was inappropriate for Burgess because his prior drug conviction was a misdemeanor, not a felony. Against all odds, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, which will be argued by Stanford Law School Professor Jeff Fisher, the man who, in about an hour from now, will argue the Supreme Court case of Exxon v. Baker.