Tarra Simmons, Civil Survival Executive Director, recently sat down with Elizabeth Olson from the New York Times to discuss the challenges facing justice-involved individuals who work hard to earn a law degree but face barriers to actually practicing law. Tarra describes her journey as someone who earned a law degree with honors (as well as a prestigious fellowship) but was denied the right to sit for the bar exam by the Washington State Bar Association’s Character and Fitness Board. Tarra successfully appealed the decision and will sit for the bar exam in February. She explained that “At first, I was afraid that appealing would mean they were going to shame me in public . . . I did have problems, but I overcame them. This was the gateway to practice, and I had to go through it.”
The article also highlights the story of Christopher Poulos (a Civil Survival board member), who went to prison for drug trafficking but went on to serve as an intern at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and then earned his law degree in Maine. After passing the Maine bar exam he was forced to spend $25,000 to go through a hearing process to prove his fitness to practice. Poulos was happy about the outcome but worried about consistency in applying the standards.
Read the full article: Are Felons Fit to Be Lawyers? Increasingly, the Answer Is Yes