Nearly 400 years after Shakespeare's death, American jurists still cite his works. Quotes from plays such as Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Romeo & Juliet appear in opinions from the state and federal courts in nearly every jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has even gotten in on the action. Justice Thomas, in his concurrence in Shelby County v. Holder, --- U.S. ---, 133 S. Ct. 2612, 2642 (2013), quotes The Tempest: "[W]hat's past is prologue."
Judge Thomas Thrash added to the list of citers of the Bard on January 16, 2014 when he issued an order in United States v. Hill, No. 1:05-CR-269-11-TWT, --- F. Supp. 2d ---, 2014 WL 186098 (N.D. Ga. Jan. 16, 2014). Hill received a 30-year sentence and alleged ineffective assistance of counsel, claiming that his lawyer advised him to reject a 12-year plea deal because he had a complete defense to the charges* against him.
Hill testified that his lawyer advised him to reject a 12-year plea deal, but both the lawyer and the prosecutor testified that no plea deal was ever offered. Judge Thrash found Hill's testimony not credible, noting: "Mr. Hill is a twice convicted felon whose crimes involved fraud, dishonesty and
deceit on an enormous scale. Any testimony by him involving the subject of money
or his self-interest is inherently suspect." Id. at *1.
Judge Thrash aptly quotes King Lear, a tragedy, to describe Hill's situation:
This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune,
often the surfeits of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun,
the moon, and stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly
compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance; drunkards,
liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all
that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.
Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 1, Scene 2.
Food for though: Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. -William Shakespere, All's Well That Ends Well, Act 1, Scene 1.
*Hill's charges arose from a mortgage fraud scheme that Judge Thrash noted was the "largest mortgage fraud conspiracy ever prosecuted in the Northern District of Georgia." At the time he was charged, Hill apparently was already on probation for charges arising from an earlier mortgage fraud scheme.