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A federal inmate who helped another inmate write a brief that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review has said he is being investigated for practicing law without a license. Michael Ray, who is in a medium security prison in Estill, S.C., helped write a brief for Keith Burgess, who is serving time in Ray Brook, N.Y., on drug charges. The U.S. Supreme Court, which typically hears fewer than 1% of cases it receives, agreed in December to review Burgess’s case, which involves the interpretation of a federal statute that enhances sentencing of drug offenders to a 20-year minimum if there is prior felony drug offense. Burgess v. USA, No. 06-11429 (U.S.). Mark Plowden, communications director for Henry McMaster, South Carolina’s attorney general, said he could not confirm whether Ray is being investigated. But in a letter dated Feb. 14 sent to The National Law Journal, Ray talked about his “disbelief” about being investigated by the office, which is based in Columbia, S.C. “With no respect to Henry & Company up in Columbia, I think somebody may quite possibly have missed the year in law school covering the Constitution and federal law,” he wrote. Ray enclosed a copy of a letter from Jeffrey Fisher, the Stanford Law School professor who is representing Burgess, in which Fisher says it is his understanding Ray is being investigated by South Carolina’s attorney general and recommends that he consults with C. Rauch Wise, a lawyer in Greenwood, S.C. Wise did not return a call for comment yesterday afternoon. Ray has spent much of his last 20 year in prison on mail, bank and wire fraud charges. Ray, who said he earns 29 cents an hour as a law clerk at his prison library, also enclosed a copy of a document showing he joined the American Bar Association as an associate member in 2004/05. He also attached a policy by the Federal Bureau of Prisons which outlines the rules allowing an inmate to assist another inmate with legal research and preparation of legal documents.

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