From Convicted Felon to Attorney: Reginald Dwayne Betts Wins Approval to Practice Law in Conn.

Alex Brandon/AP Images
Alex Brandon/AP Images

One extraordinary man is proving that it’s never too late to turn your life around, going from convicted felon to attorney-at-law after winning approval Friday to practice law in Connecticut after a state panel reviewed his moral character.

According to the Associated Press, 36-year-old Reginald Dwayne Betts, an esteemed, award-winning author and a graduate of Yale Law School, can now add another feather to his cap after the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee recommended him for admission to the state bar.

The panel, AP notes, had previously flagged his file after he passed the bar exam in February to investigate his moral character and whether he lacked “fitness to practice law.”


“I’m happy that they made that decision,” Betts said. “I’m just grateful for the huge amount of support people gave me.”

At one point, Betts may not have been considered likely to become a lawyer, having been convicted of three felonies in a carjacking that he committed in Virginia as a 16-year-old. He ended up serving eight years in prison but then went on to graduate from the University of Maryland before winning a Harvard University fellowship and ultimately his law degree from Yale.

Betts also wrote two books of poetry and a third book aptly titled A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, which won a 2010 NAACP Image Award.

Betts, a married father of two children, is also still working on his education: He is pursuing a doctorate in law at Yale with the dream of becoming a law professor one day. According to AP, he recently finished an internship in the public defender office in New Haven, Conn., and is set to take on a clerkship next year with Judge Theodore McKee at Philadelphia’s federal appeals court.


Like most states, Connecticut does not bar felons from becoming attorneys, although applicants must be proved to have a good moral standing and a fitness to practice law through “clear and convincing evidence.”

“I think that his story is a remarkable story,” former Connecticut Judge Anne Dranginis, chairwoman of the Bar Examining Committee, told AP. “Mr. Betts demonstrated his commitment to others who may have lost their way. He has a great deal to offer, in addition to what he has already done.”


Congratulations and best of luck to this awesome human being!

Read more at the New Haven Register.

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi

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Bravo. He’s done more with his life than me (or most people I know) and I don’t have the disadvantage of having a felony on my record. I’m glad he’s overcome but what’s really crazy is if he couldn’t pursue higher education (it takes a lot of money, time, support from family/friends, etc) he would have been effectively barred from entering the workforce directly after prison. Even fast food applications ask if you have an arrest/felony conviction. Getting an apartment on his own would have been basically impossible. The system sets you up for failure and a mistake he made at 16 could have derailed him forever even after he “paid his debt to society”. Granted, I don’t know the details of his case, but he got 8 years for carjacking. That’s more time than rapists get. #neverforgetbrockgot3months