Law student told she couldn’t take the bar exam due to her past — but then the Supreme Court stepped in

November 22, 2017 1:52 pm Last Updated: November 22, 2017 1:53 pm

For many people, being granted with the privilege to practice law is an unmatched honor. Lawyers take high pride in their work to bring justice to their communities. Unfortunately, for some people, practicing law may seem out of reach.

Tarra Simmons was one such individual, with dreams of becoming a lawyer to help others like her. However her dreams hit a snag after graduating law school with honors and the Dean’s Medal. By a vote of 6-3, a panel decided that Simmons was to be denied approval to take the bar exam.

The vote was credited to Simmons’ rocky past.


“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,” Simmons said, according to King 5 News.

Simmons was originally a nurse, married with a loving husband and family. However her life choices took everything away from her. After her father died, she started using drugs, which led to her to be arrested three times within ten months in 2010.


“The last time was for delivery of drugs, and I was sentenced to 30 months in prison,” Simmons said.

As a result of her situation, Simmons was frequently in contact with lawyers, who she said genuinely tried to help her. Simmons said they inspired her, driving her to turn her life around. Graduating law school was the beginning of her new life, she thought, but the panel’s vote seemed otherwise.

Simmons decided to appeal the panel’s decision, and her case found its way to the Washington Supreme Court.

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


The Supreme Court reached their decision with a unanimous vote on November 16. It wasn’t good news for Simmons—it was great news!

“After consideration of the record filed in this case, the briefs of the parties and the oral argument, the Court unanimously finds that Tarra Denelle Simmons has the requisite moral character and fitness to practice law in the State of Washington,” the official ruling stated.

(cory walster/Screenshot)

Simmons was ecstatic by the news. For her future, she’s looking forward to being an example to other people who may be in a bad place and are trying to turn their lives around.

“When I first started law school, my hope was to learn how to help others who were also like me,” Simmons shared.

Now that she’s free to take the bar, she hopes her future is full of achieving exactly that.