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In Re Bar Application of Tarra Simmons

In July 2017 WACDL submitted an amicus brief in support of Ms. Simmons application to be admitted to the WSBA concerning what the WSSC should consider as sufficient evidence of rehabilitation to establish "character and fitness" to practice law


Petition for review to WSSC following denial of application to take the Washington State Bar Exam


Despite evidence that following a criminal conviction Ms. Simmons served her sentence, paid her fines, completed treatment, complied with all conditions of her plea, completed law school, established herself in the community, committed no further criminal offenses and had full support from numerous members of the community including family, friends prosecutors, judges and other members of the bar she was denied the opportunity to take the bar examination.


On 11/16/2017 the WSSC issued a unanimous order following oral argument on this date that Ms. Simmons has the requisite moral character and fitness to practice law in the the State of Washington and shall be allowed to sit for the bar exam. A full opinion on the matter is to be issued at a later date.

WACDL Amicus

Whether evidence of rehabilitation is sufficient, despite past criminal conduct, to establish "character and fitness" to practice law. Entrance to the Bar for a new applicant should be considered by the same criteria as re-entry for a disbarred attorney. In no case has a disbarred attorney been denied re-entry simply because of an insufficient passage of time.

On April 5, 2018 the WSSC issued it's written opinion on this case in which the court affirmed the principle that for purposes of bar admission, a moral character inquiry is determined on an individualized basis and that there is no categorical exclusion of an applicant who has a criminal or substance abuse history. The court declined to adopt a bright-line rule for determining sufficient rehabilitation or recovery such as creating a rebuttable presumption that after a certain number of years without a relapse or engaging in any misconduct an individual would be entitled to admission.

WACDL Amicus Author

Rita Griffith

Appellate Authors

T. David Copley, Laura Gerber, Tana Lin

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