Justice Sotomayor Cites Student Note

October 23, 2018

Shelby Calambokidis, ‘17, was stunned when she learned that her student note about solitary confinement was cited by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

A colleague at the Southern Poverty Law Center, where Calambokidis worked off and on while attending law school, told her about the citation. She worked hard on her note and crafted it with an eye toward telling a human story. The note was published in Volume 68 of the Alabama Law Review.

Shelby Calambokidis

“I felt like I owed it to the clients I encountered while working with the SPLC, who endured unfathomable suffering,” she said. “Their stories truly weighed on me, and writing about how the law should condemn their suffering helped me feel, selfishly, as though something could be done about it.”

After she saw the citation, Calambokidis called her mom and sent an email to her law professors to share the good news and to thank them for their support. When law students are considering writing articles for law journals or seminars, they often approach faculty to discuss their topic interests and ideas.

Professor Bryan Fair was instrumental in helping Calambokidis develop the idea for the article, and Professor Fred Vars and Professor Meredith Render, among others, provided invaluable feedback after her note was chosen for publication.

Professors Fair and Vars said Calambokidis deserves all of the credit for researching and writing an excellent article on the cruelty of solitary confinement in the United States.

“Many legal scholars spend their careers hoping that the Supreme Court might one day cite their work,” Fair said. “All consider it a tremendous honor. It is quite unusual for a new graduate to have her work cited by the Court. Thus, this is an extraordinary honor for Ms. Calambokidis.”

Vars said being cited is a little like being struck by lightning.

“I expect it will draw attention to her article, which is great because the note makes a compelling case against solitary confinement. Being cited might also have some positive effect on her career, I suppose, but Shelby won’t need the help.”

Calambokidis, who currently serves as a law clerk to the Honorable Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is about to begin a nine-month legal fellowship with the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C.  In August 2019, she will begin clerking for the Honorable Henry F. Floyd of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.