A criminal past isnt evidence of moral failure in the present.
A criminal past isn't evidence of moral failure in the present. cosmonaut/Getty Images

This morning, the Washington Supreme Court heard oral arguments debating whether Tarra Denelle Simmons, a magna cum laude graduate of the Seattle University School of Law and twice-appointed gubernatorial council member, should be allowed to take the bar exam. A Washington State Bar Association character and fitness board earlier this year had voted, by six to three, that Simmons should be excluded from practicing law because of her criminal record—including drug and firearm convictions—and a prior declaration of bankruptcy.

The Washington Supreme Court's nine justices disagreed with the bar association. Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote that "the Court unanimously finds that Tarra Dennelle Simmons has the requisite moral character and fitness to practice law in the State of Washington." A formal opinion will follow.

After Simmons was initially rejected by the bar, 450 attorneys, including law school faculty and staffers from various public defense and civil rights organizations, signed a letter of support for Simmons' bar admission. Her case was argued by a professor emeritus at her alma mater and Shon Hopwood, a professor of law at Georgetown University who himself was formerly incarcerated.

Read more about the case here.