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State Bar Committee Approves Jail-To-Yale Lawyer

A former inmate who graduated from Yale Law School last summer has received the greenlight to practice in Connecticut.

Reginald Dwayne Betts was admitted to the bar on Friday after a meeting with the state’s examining committee.

“He is gratified with the action of the committee, and he looks forward to continuing the work he’s been doing, only this time as a lawyer where he can be more effective than he’s been,” said William F. Dow III, the New Haven-based attorney who represented Betts in this matter. “He’s grateful to the many people who’ve helped him, especially a significant number of inmates, who don’t even know him, but who appreciate what he’s done and the hope that he’s given to them.”

Last month, Betts’ application to the bar was given pause due to a felony conviction for carjacking in Virginia when he was a teen.

His case drew national attention, including an editorial from The New York Times calling on the bar association to approve him.

Per state regulation, any applicant for the bar must prove “his or her good moral character and fitness to practice law by clear and convincing evidence" to the examining committee.”

Betts was released after serving nearly 10 years behind bars and pursued his education, culminating with his graduation from Yale last summer and his passing of the bar exam in February.

The Maryland native is also an accomplished author, publishing two collections of poetry and a memoir.

Throughout the approval process, Betts received support from people speaking on his behalf, with letters submitted to the examining committee on “a panorama from inmate to professor to judge,” Dow said Friday.

Before Betts can practice, he’ll receive an official notice from the state and will be sworn in at superior court in New Haven.

Betts spoke at length with The Courant last year, explaining that his experiences as a teen molded his desire to work in the criminal justice system.

“This, all of this, allows me to prove my story is useful,” Betts told The Courant in May 2016. “In conversations, lawmakers will look at me and say ‘you’re an exception.’ Yeah, well, in 2005, I wasn't. And I want to fight for that guy.”

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
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