Poetry News

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Reginald Dwayne Betts Sworn In

By Harriet Staff
Reginald Dwayne Betts

In August, we reported on the controversy surrounding the denied admission of Reginald Dwayne Betts to the Connecticut bar, and we followed up last month with the good news of Betts finally being admitted after a number of articles highlighted the bar's unjust decision, which was based on their assessment of Betts's "character and fitness" to practice law. Now, the New Yorker's Nicholas Dawidoff covers the ceremony to swear in Betts as the newest member of the Connecticut bar. We'll take it from the top and then allow you to head to the New Yorker to read on:

Late Friday afternoon, in a small, sleepy, windowless fourth-floor courtroom at the New Haven State Superior Court, an official cried, “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!,” as Judge Omar Williams arrived from Hartford to conduct the final business of the week. Williams looked out upon two rows of pew-like wooden benches, all of them filled, and informed the public that the court had received word from the state that Reginald Dwayne Betts, age thirty-seven, had been “successfully” approved to practice law in Connecticut. Williams then described the “honor” he felt at “being here today.” Referring to law as “a calling,” the judge said that Betts was “an inspiration.” Betts had trimmed his beard and wore a crisp blue suit over his stocky frame for an event that had the feel of a wedding. He was required to raise his right hand and swear that he’d do nothing dishonest, for personal gain or out of malice. “I do,” Betts said. And with that, the judge asked the gallery to “help me congratulate Attorney Reginald Dwayne Betts!”

Connecticut’s newest lawyer held his license and began to read from it aloud. Then he stopped, looked at his mother, who had come from Maryland, and thanked her, saying, “Last time my mom saw me in court, I was sentenced to nine years in prison. I know nobody expected this then. Least of all me.” He proceeded to identify every witness in the room: his law professors from Yale, his aunt Pandora, his wife and sons. A number of friends were present, including me. (We met a few years ago, through mutual friends in New Haven, and grew close.) “There’s even a prosecutor in the house!” Betts said. As he told us all how he’d “sweated over the possibility that this might not happen,” his ease and command speaking at the front of such a space was evident.

Originally Published: November 8th, 2017