WASHINGTON – Nine years ago, Kevin Ring was a rising star in conservative legal circles here when he published his first book, “Scalia Dissents,” a tribute to Antonin Scalia as the Supreme Court’s “wittiest, most outspoken justice.”
This week, the former lawyer and lobbyist may well need an assist from the outspoken Scalia if he is to avoid going to federal prison for nearly two years.
Ring’s last-chance appeal comes before the Supreme Court justices as they meet today for an annual fall ritual. They will sift through 2,000 appeal petitions that arrived during the summer in search of about a dozen cases that will get a full hearing and a decision.
This year’s list includes many appeals from corporations and business groups fighting big lawsuits or challenging the Obama administration’s environmental regulations. But the majority come from prisoners and criminal defendants like Ring, for whom the high court represents their last hope.
Ring’s appeal, however, has at least a chance of getting the court’s attention because it turns on the meaning of the law. As the judges who upheld his conviction acknowledged, it rests on the “subtle” distinction “between legal lobbying and criminal conduct,” connected to Ring’s work in the infamous Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal in 2004.
But three years ago, prompted by Scalia’s dissents, the Supreme Court limited the reach of the law and Ring’s attorney is now questioning whether a crime even took place in 2004.