This article presents the case of a former sex offender, still on the registry, who is a third year law student at the University of Richmond School of Law after receiving "the law school’s most prestigious, $30,000 John Marshall scholarship."
Many questions are being asked, and Zach Jesse has an attorney who has wisely advised him to answer none. His attorney made this statement. “If Zach passes the Virginia bar exam, he will have a hearing before the character and fitness committee of the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners to determine if he will become a member of the Virginia State Bar. I anticipate that the members of the committee will be asking the same types of questions you want to ask, so you can understand that I can’t let Zach answer questions on or off the record prior to his formal hearing.”
If Zach is admitted to the Virginia State Bar, he will be the first felon and certainly he first registered sex offender to earn that honor.
But why? There have been other such applicants. One who did not succeed with the character and fitness committee had been merely charged with a sexual crime; he was not convicted.
Is rehabilitation not recognized as a possibility? Should we not reward, or at least acknowledge, those who demonstrate it? In general, criminal justice systems profess to hold rehabilitation as a goal equal to just punishment. Virginia, however, on their official criminal justice website, doesn't even give rehabilitation lip service; they instead publish, "Welcome to the Web site of Virginia’s Judicial System. Our aim is to assure that disputes are resolved justly, promptly, and economically through a court system unified in its structures and administration."
Well. Promptly and economically. And justly. Not hoping for rehabilitation. Not making it a priority that those passing through the system are encouraged to repent, to strive to do better, to work hard to succeed--which makes it all the more remarkable that Zachery Jesse has done exactly that.
If odds were being given that Zach will end up practicing law in Virginia--or anywhere--I doubt many, if any, would take the bet.
But on the other hand, Zach is most clearly a young man who has proven he can beat the odds.
Zach, the best of luck to you. I hope you succeed. My money is on you.