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Man faces judge, gets big surprise
A paralegal wondered what he'd done wrong when his name was called, out of the blue, during a routine day in a local court. He was about to get great news.


Date published: 10/16/2004

By LAURA MOYER

Olaun Simmons was a paralegal when he entered a Stafford County courtroom yesterday morning. When he left, he was a lawyer.

Simmons was in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Ann Hunter Simpson, assisting defense attorney Brent A. Jackson at a client's sentencing.

Just before noon, after a morning of probation-violation cases and other matters, Judge Simpson asked if there was an Olaun Simmons in the room.

Surprised, Simmons stood up and said, "Yes, your honor."

Simpson told him to walk to the defense counsel table, which he did--polite, respectful and baffled.

The judge wasn't giving anything away.

She asked the spelling of his first name.

"O-l-a-u-n."

Was he associated in any way with Mr. Jackson's law firm?

"Yes, I'm his legal assistant."

And had he taken the Virginia State Bar exam in July of 2004?

He said he had.

"Well I have some news for you, Mr. Simmons," the judge said. "I've been contacted with information that you passed the bar. Congratulations."

The courtroom burst into applause, and handshakes all around.

Such congratulations were repeated statewide yesterday, as the results of the July examination were posted online. Approximately 1,000 women and men learned via the Internet that all those years of law school and study had finally paid off.

Simmons maintained lawyerly composure in the courtroom, but in the hallway outside he burst out laughing.

It turned out that Jackson had stepped out of the courtroom a few minutes earlier, called his office and learned that Simmons' name was on the pass list.

He jotted a note on a yellow legal pad, tore off the sheet and handed it to a courtroom deputy. The deputy gave it to the clerk, and the clerk gave it to the judge.

When the judge called Simmons' name, he said later, he wondered what the heck he'd done wrong.

That's what he told fiancee Stacy Davis by cell phone, seconds after he emerged from the courtroom. Davis practices domestic-relations law in Washington, and the couple will live in Dumfries after they marry next summer.

Simmons, 31, is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta and the Ohio State University Law School. He's now the fourth lawyer in Jackson's Richmond-based practice.

Before the day was out, Simmons said, he'd call his mom, dad, brother, sister and grandmother with the good news.

Maybe the best part of the story, he said, was getting the word straight from the judge's mouth.

"It's the most fantastic way to find out you passed the bar," he said.

His goal is to be a criminal defense attorney, "so it's really great that I found out in a courtroom."

To reach LAURA MOYER: 540/374-5417 lmoyer@freelancestar.com