Steve Shapiro recently pulled his first all-nighter in years. He worked until about 1 a.m. last month on an assignment for a class at American University’s Washington College of Law, where he is a first-semester 1L. From then until dawn, he pored over his brief due at the U.S. Supreme Court, where his battle against Maryland’s often-criticized gerrymandered congressional districts will be heard this week in a case that bears his name. At age 55, Shapiro is not the typical law school newbie; he’s more often mistaken for a professor. It was his decades-long fight with Maryland’s political leadership over redistricting that, in part, fueled his decision to leave his job as a career federal employee and enroll full time in law school.
Before he ever took his first law class, he served as his own lawyer, filing the original complaint in what is now called Shapiro v. McManus and a subsequent appeal after losing the first round.
“With each brief, I got a little bit better at it,” Shapiro said in a recent interview in the school’s law library. Still, if he had known what he’s learned in just two months of law school, “I could have made them better.”