Woman fights back after being told she's not allowed to finish her law degree

Apr 25, 2018
02:45 P.M.
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The woman knew she deserved a second chance after all her efforts. She fought hard to be able to take the bar exams after law school.


Tarra Simmons was a 33-year-old from Bremerton, Washington when she became addicted to illegal substances.

The Epoch Times shared that she was selling small amounts of drugs and stole to continue her addiction.

In September 2011, the authorities arrested her after they raided her home. She was sentenced to 30 months of jail time and was charged with five drug felonies.

Because of her conviction, Simmons came into contact with several civil legal issues.  These legal issues sparked Simmons’ interest in the law.


By the time she was released in May 2013, Simmons had a hard time looking for jobs and a place to stay because of her convictions.

Talking to The Epoch Times, she said, “It was hard to have the stigma, and I was around other people in recovery and in my community who were facing the same issue.”

She explained that it was at that moment when she decided to go to law school and help others who were like her, stating that they deserve a second chance.


Simmons was also inspired by Shon Hopwood’s book, The Lawman. Hopwood was a former robber who became a law professor.

In August 2014, Simmons enrolled herself to Seattle University School of Law.

She recalled how hard it was for her to be back in school after 15 years, but she pushed through.


At first, she was afraid to tell her story. Eventually, she gained courage and told her professors and classmates that she had been convicted in the past.

To her surprise, they all encouraged and supported her. Soon enough, she became an advocate for criminal justice reform, as well as second chances.

Simmons graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2017. She was also awarded the Dean’s Medal and the first Skadden Fellowship.

Problems started to arise on April 14, 2017, which was a month before her graduation. Simmons found out that she was banned from taking the bar exam to become a lawyer because of her past convictions.


Despite her heartbreak, she was determined to fight back after a group of people from her scholastic and legal connections pledged their help.

Simmons filed an appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court. The ACLU wrote also wrote an amicus brief to the court.

As explained by The Epoch Times, an amicus brief is a petition that is filed by someone on behalf of the petitioner.

Overall, 48 organizations signed the brief, together with signatures from 54 attorneys and law professors.

Eventually, the court agreed to hear her case and arrived at a unanimous decision to grant her the right to take the next bar exam.

Simmons took the bar exam for two days beginning on February 27, 2018. She found out that she passed on April 13, 2018.

At present, Simmons is an employee at the Public Defender Association in Seattle. She has been waiting for the day that she will be sworn in to officially become a lawyer.