1L Takes Case Challenging Maryland's Gerrymandering to the Supreme Court

Steve Shapiro addresses his first-year law school classmates, before his Washington lawyer, Michael Kimberly, practices his oral argument.

Steve Shapiro’s decision to study law was bolstered from the experience of self-advocacy. In 2013, he and two co-plaintiffs filed a complaint fighting the new Congressional districts enacted in his home state of Maryland, arguing that the redistricting violated their Article 1 and First Amendment rights.

This past fall, the 55-year old enrolled in American University Washington College of Law to pursue a career in litigation after struggling to obtain representation before the U.S. Supreme Court. Last December, Michael Kimberly, a co-director of the Yale Law School’s Supreme Court Clinic and an associate with Mayer Brown, agreed to take Shapiro’s case pro bono.

On November 4, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States heard Shapiro’s case, making the 1L a subject of national attention. 

UPD: On December 8, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously in favor of Steve Shapiro's lawsuit. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion. The Washington Post reports: "The court said lower courts were wrong to dismiss the lawsuit that Steven Shapiro filed on behalf of himself and others challenging the state’s redistricting after the 2010 Census. The state’s overwhelmingly Democratic political leadership changed the lines to make it easier for Democrats to win in seven of the state’s eight congressional districts."

Sharing Experience with Peers

Right before the hearing in the Supreme Court, Professors Mark Niles, Stephen Vladeck, and Stephen Wermiel hosted a moot court, where Kimberly did a practice round of his oral argument in Shapiro’s case.

“It was very helpful for my attorney to be questioned by Professors Vladeck and Niles,” the student says.  “I am glad that so many classmates were able to see it.”

Life as a 1L

After years in the workforce, starting law school was a drastic change for Shapiro. “I didn’t expect that most work nights would end after midnight,” he says. “Even though I had a demanding job prior to entering law school, it was still easier to find time for personal activities.”

Yet, the change has been an exciting one. Every day is a learning opportunity, and he has already identified a lot that he would do differently if starting the litigation again.  “I particularly note when I learn things in class that are relevant to the case,” Shapiro says.

During the first few months as a law student, Shapiro has particularly enjoyed the hands-on learning opportunities, such as the Jurist-in-Residence program, which brings prominent judges to American University Washington College of Law to share insights on important topics facing the nation’s judiciary.

“Their [the judges’] perspectives have been quite interesting,” he says.  “It would be great if the D.C. Circuit would hear arguments at local law schools – as other Circuits do.”

Plans for the Future

Shapiro’s main priority, beyond the litigation, is keeping up with classwork.  While he enjoyed the work on election and constitutional law, he also interested in regulatory law, since much of his earlier career was as a regulator.

Re-entering the workforce is more than two years away, but Shapiro will be prepared for the challenge.  “I’m beginning to wonder if future life as a junior associate is going to be a lot like life as a 1L,” he says.

Read more about Shapiro's story in The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and Associated Press.