At 18, Omohundro headed to the University of Virginia on a full football scholarship in 1988. In his first game, broadcast from the Meadowlands on national television before tens of thousands of spectators, he tried to tackle Notre Dame punt returner Raghib "The Rocket" Ishmael who later played for the NFL. But Omohundro himself was blocked, thrust by one of the Fighting Irish into the sidelines.
Experience has taught Omohun-dro, 34, that however euphoric or daunting the spotlight may be, it's still fleeting.
Yet he seems to attract it again and again. Last week the General Assembly convened for a special session and a record 116th day to fix a law it botched. Omohundro, a 2002 graduate of University of Richmond School of Law and an associate with McGuireWoods law firm, caught the error. Soon he found himself being quoted in the L.A. Times and the Washington Post and being treated famously at the state capitol.
Last week, Style spoke with Omohundro about the fluke, the fallout and the fickle phase of fame. Style: How did you know you had stumbled onto something that had been missed?Omohundro:
I had a routine question from a client who had come across this law that says you have to give employees a day of rest. The question was, if an employee comes and asks for Saturday or Sunday off, does an employer have to honor that request? I found this long list of exceptions that said if you're engaged in the following industries you don't have to comply, and it basically encompassed every business you can think of. What no one had noticed that I picked up on, was that in the last session of the General Assembly, they had repealed that part of the statute.What happened next?
A group of our clients decided they were interested in challenging the law on a constitutional basis in Richmond Circuit Court. It was impressive. The big hitters at the firm really got involved. It was an all-night session. They put together motions and briefs, got them into court the next morning. They made their arguments and got the injunction. Then did the General Assembly simply reenact the exemptions?
They basically put it back to the way it was before it was repealed. The law has had a lot of changes over the years in terms of amendments. There's no question that it's now being scrutinized more than it ever has. They may not be talking about me discovering [the error] in regular session, but you will hear about this day-of-rest law again.What has been the reaction of friends and colleagues?
The guy who works next to me keeps coming over and asking sarcastically, "What interview are you doing today?" I've actually gotten to the point where I've thought, I need to keep this to myself. Anybody could be in a situation where, it's Eureka! You're the one who figures something out or maybe you win the lottery. It's the kind of thing where you all of a sudden have this attention. Obviously, it's going to be short-lived. It makes me think about people who are in the news all the time and how difficult that would be.Doesn't this speak to the serendipity of it all? Here's this guy in a position he never expected, who years before had been this kid trying to board a plane for the Junior Olympics with his pole vault poles that wouldn't fit?
I told my mother I almost feel like Forrest Gump. Hopefully I'm a little more well-spoken [laughs]. In that movie, everywhere he goes he sort of finds himself in a situation. Really, I've just been lucky. I look back and say, wow, it's kind of fun to be at the center. One thing I have always said, whether it's athletically or academically, I'm not that smart or that gifted, I'm just a hard worker. And I've seen both sides of the equation and know things aren't always easy.What was it like during Tuesday's special session?
That really was the pinnacle of the surrealism. As I walked through the halls there were reporters grabbing me. There were senators and delegates who literally knew me by sight. And I had just walked in thinking I want to watch what they do and make sure I understand how they fix this thing. One of the senators came up into the gallery and said, "I'm sure this has really furthered your career." It's nice to get the attention, but you can't just fast-forward in the law, and if you try to, you're not going to be a very good lawyer.
I had one person tell me that the biggest deal about this was that I had the guts to stand up and say, "Hey, I think the General Assembly made this mistake." It's definitely been surreal. It's been exciting. But as it goes on and people are like, that's that guy uncomfortable is another word that applies. This is probably going to be one of those things that 20 years from now there will still be some people who say, "I remember you, you were the day-of-rest guy." S
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