On Wednesday morning, we completed the necessary paperwork
on behalf of the eligible clients and filed the expunction petitions with the
courts. After the last petition was filed, our group gathered in a circle to
reflect on the events of the past few days. We discussed the difference we felt
we had made in the clients’ lives, as well as the difference they had made in
The responses to the first part of the question were varied.
In the best cases, the clients had been able to clear part or all of their
criminal records, meaning that they would now be free to find a better job, a
better place to live, and/or complete their education. These students could see
the empowering effect that a clean record would have on their clients’ lives. In
contrast, some had mostly seen clients who did not qualify for relief under the
narrow provisions of the law, and they were frustrated with the statute’s
exclusion of so many people who had paid their debt to society and yet were
still being punished—haunted—by their criminal records. The students recognized
the progress being made in comparison to a few years ago, when no expunctions
were available to adults, and they hoped that the law would continue to expand and
include more people in the future.
The difference that the clients had made in our lives was
less concrete, but very significant, and it was felt by all of us. Their
resilience in the face of adversity and exclusion from the rest of society was
inspiring (and also heartbreaking), and it put the everyday troubles of law
school into perspective. It becomes a little harder to complain about a lack of
coffee or too much reading when we take for granted our access to basic
resources (safe and affordable housing, reliable transportation, etc.) that
seem worlds away for many of these clients. Even the dreaded legal job market
pales in comparison to the severely restricted employment opportunities for
formerly incarcerated people.
felt more appreciative of the freedoms and privileges we enjoy as law students
and future attorneys; and we were reminded that using our privileged access to
the legal system for the betterment of those who have been excluded is the most
rewarding and meaningful work we can do.
Posted by Frederick E. Benz (Evan) on Fri. March 14, 2014 10:18 AM
Spring Break 2014 (Eastern, Expunction)