Law student who turned life around blocked from taking bar exam

Extended interview with Tarra Simmons

Her journey has been the ultimate comeback story. 
  
Tarra Simmons, a nurse and mother of three, loses it all to drug addiction, goes to prison, and serves 20 months behind bars. But when she gets out, she gets clean and stays clean. She turns her life around.

Now, Tarra is graduating from Seattle University's law school, and she is ready to begin a new career as a lawyer. However, the state bar association says she can't.

On the eve of graduation, Tarra explained that her path to a cap and gown has been complicated.

"I went through a period of time when I was having a lot of grief and loss when my father died, and I started to use drugs to self-medicate for that," she said.

Back in 2010, when she was using drugs, she says she was arrested three times within 10 months.

"The last time was for delivery of drugs, and I was sentenced to 30 months in prison. I ended up serving 20 months based on those criminal convictions," she said.

While she was behind bars, her marriage ended, and her home went into foreclosure.

"A lot of lawyers came alongside me and helped me with all of my legal issues," she said.

Those lawyers inspired Tarra to love the law and even convinced her to apply for law school.

"When I first started law school, my hope was to learn how to help others who were also like me," she said.

Now she is graduating with honors and on the Dean's Medal.

She even received the prestigious Skadden Fellowship.

"That was absolutely the most meaningful for me. Nobody in 28 years from the school has been able to get that," she explained. 

But her past is still a problem. Last month a panel decided 6-3 that she would not be allowed to take the bar exam.

"It's because I have the felony conviction and bankruptcy," she explained.

Tarra is appealing the decision.

"If the Supreme Court overrules this and allows me to practice law, that will show people second chances really do exist," she said.


 

© 2017 KING-TV


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