‘Character Is Not Static’: A Soon-To-Be Lawyer Turns Rough Past Into Bright Future

Nicole Brodeur
The Seattle Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Tarra Simmons has shown true grit in coming back from her drug addiction to live a happy, productive, sober life.

The Seattle Times

The question before the state Supreme Court was pretty straightforward: Was Tarra Simmons truly redeemed, or a risk to the honor and dignity of the legal profession?

Just five years before, Simmons was a meth addict who had people shoplift for her so she could sell the stolen goods and support her habit. She was arrested, served 20 months in prison and then applied and was accepted to the Seattle University School of Law.

Despite foreclosure, bankruptcy and a battle to keep her children, Simmons thrived.

A 3.7 GPA. The Dean’s Medal. An appointment by Gov. Jay Inslee to the new 15-member Statewide Reentry Council. And she was the first Seattle University graduate to receive the prestigious Skadden Fellowship, awarded to a law-school graduate focused on public-interest law.

“I have areas where I am not very intelligent,” Simmons said recently. “But I’m super good at academia.”

And yet, the Washington State Bar Association’s Character and Fitness Board recommended Simmons not be allowed to seek a law license. She had a “sense of entitlement” regarding her fellowship, the committee said. There was a risk she might relapse, or reoffend.

And was five years really long enough for a person to change?

At a hearing before the Washington State Supreme Court last November, Shon Hopwood, a convicted bank robber and now a professor at Georgetown Law School, argued that people can be redeemed.

Hopwood, who was the subject of a “60 Minutes” profile for his dramatic turnaround, is living proof.

And so, he argued, is Tarra Simmons.

“Character is not static,” Hopwood told the justices. “People change. And the law should recognize that.”

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *