After meeting with clients and reviewing criminal records to determine eligibility on the first two days of the Spring Break Expunction Clinic, UNC law students spent their last day in Wilmington filing petitions for expunction. This involved meeting with clients to attach affidavits if needed, double-checking criminal records for eligibility, and accurately filling out the proper forms so that the records of clients who are eligible can be expunged.
When we completed the necessary paperwork, we walked to the New Hanover County Superior Court where Superior Court Judge Hockenbury signed the petitions. The petitions will then be sent to the NC State Bureau of Investigation for a final determination of eligibility then back to the Superior Court so that the expunction can be granted. Once granted, the order for expunction is delivered to the arresting agency and then the SBI, where the record is actually destroyed. The process can take about four months, which can be seen as a long time to a client who feels such an immediate need for a clean slate.
Judge Hockenbury took the time to remind us, as future lawyers, that a life of service is the greatest joy. As a judge, he takes the time to ensure that justice is served in each case and tailors each sentence to the individual. No matter what the charge is, whether it’s a minor infraction or a felony, the case can be significant to the client. We must remember to approach each case with that in mind.
There were several “takeaways” from this pro bono trip. Not only were we exposed to the process of expunction, we were also exposed to many different sides of the issue. When interviewing clients, we began to understand that there is a story behind their criminal records. We witnessed their desire to reenter society without being judged by their past.
In many ways expunction can be seen as an extension of the utilitarian versus retributive debate. The ways in which punishment should be implemented and to what extent varies from person to person. Regardless of where we fall on the issue, we have left this clinic more informed and better able to meet the needs of our future clients.
Posted by Chanda D. Marlowe on Thu. March 13, 2014 12:16 PM
Spring Break 2014 (Eastern, Expunction)