Jailhouse lawyer Michael Ray has accomplished something rarely achieved by even experienced of attorneys outside, says the Associated Press: The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in a case for one of his fellow inmates. The high court accepts less than 1 percent of the thousands of cases it receives each year. In this instance, the appeal was drawn up by a prisoner who earns 29 cents an hour and does not even have a college degree, much less a law school education. “This is basically a once-in-a-lifetime for a good criminal defense attorney, so you can imagine I’m on cloud nine, with my background,” said Ray, 42, in a recent phone interview from a federal prison in Estill, S.C.
He will not argue the case himself when it comes up in March; in fact, he will not be allowed out of prison to attend the hearing. Ray has been behind bars much of his adult life for fraud schemes. The high court case involves Keith Burgess, who is in prison for possession of crack with intent to distribute. In Burgess’ appeal, rejected by the lower courts, Ray argued that a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence should not have applied to Burgess because a prior drug conviction was a misdemeanor, not a felony. A successful appeal could cut Burgess’ sentence in half. Jeff Fisher, a Stanford University law professor, will argue the case put together by Ray.