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Former convict sworn in as lawyer in Washington state

UPDATED: Sun., June 17, 2018

Associated Press

SEATTLE – One of Washington state’s newest attorneys is a former convict.

Seattle University Law School graduate Tarra Simmons was sworn in as a lawyer Saturday, seven months after the state Supreme Court ruled that she could take the bar exam despite her past, KING-TV reported.

“I hope that this sends a message to people that you are never defined by your worst mistakes,” she said at her swearing-in.

Simmons was convicted of assault in 2001 and of organized retail theft, unlawful possession of a firearm and drug possession in 2011, following a battle with addiction. In all, she has served more than three years in prison, went through two bankruptcies and the foreclosure of her home.

But a lot of lawyers helped her along the way, she said, and that helped inspire her to attend law school.

The Washington State Bar Association’s character and fitness board nevertheless recommended against her being allowed to practice law, saying she had failed to demonstrate that she would exercise good judgment and conduct herself with a high degree of honesty and integrity.

The state Supreme Court unanimously disagreed with that decision. The justices credited Simmons with being open about her past, showing remorse, seeking treatment and serving as an outspoken advocate for legal aid.

“This day is the finale of a really long and hard journey that started when I was in prison,” she said. “When I was at my lowest moment, I never thought that it would be this amazing.”

Simmons hopes to work with those re-entering society after their prison terms.

“We are a nation of second chances and a state of second chances, and we need more of that and less barriers and less hate,” she said.

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