CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jailhouse Lawyer Investigated Due to Successful Legal Help

From The prison law clerk who convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a fellow inmate's case is being investigated by South Carolina authorities for practicing law without a license, the prisoner's attorney said.

Lawyer Rauch Wise said the state attorney general's office informed him last week they were investigating Michael Ray, a federal inmate in South Carolina.

Ray helped fellow inmate Keith Lavon Burgess appeal his conviction for possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute. In the appeal, which the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on March 24, Burgess is arguing that a prior drug conviction prosecutors used to get him the 20-year minimum prison sentence shouldn't have applied because it was a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

Conflicting court rulings have required 10-year sentences for people already convicted of misdemeanors, so a successful appeal could trim Burgess' sentence in half.

Ray, who is a member of the American Bar Association and certified paralegal, earns 29 cents an hour for his work but charges no other fees for his services, Wise said.

"If an inmate were charging for services rendered, that would be some grounds to go after the inmate," Wise said. "But when an inmate is in jail, who is trying to prepare his own petition of whatever sort, and he turns to another inmate and says, 'Can you help me with this?' - that just does not offend me."

Someone convicted of practicing law without a license in South Carolina could face up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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