To expunge is a verb? Reflections on the Spring Break Pro Bono Trip From a 1L

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When I told family and friends that I was going on an “expunction clinic trip,” the majority of them replied with “a what?” and rightfully so- expunctions are not a well-known legal resource. The idea of wiping someone’s criminal record is not a sexy, headline making endeavor. And yet, the committed attorneys from NC Legal Aid have devoted substantial resources and manpower to broaden access to this critically important opportunity.

In North Carolina, a finding of “not guilty,” or even a dismissal will stay on your record forever. The UNC School of Government created an incredible tool, called the Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool that allows the general public to search by both crime and consequence to learn how a criminal history affects one’s life even after they serve their time. Not unsurprisingly, it is more difficult to find employment, secure housing, or receive government benefits, no matter how great the need.

In our two days in Canton, my partner Ben and I met with multiple clients both nervous and eager to learn about what opportunities were available to them. Unfortunately, we had tough cases that didn’t have too many options. Fortunately, however, I was able to end the trip with a man who had been haunted by a mistake he had made at age nineteen. Now in his fifties, he was unable to get the proper certification necessary to continue at his job because a background check yielded convictions. I found out that he was eligible for a complete expunction, and the shock and appreciation in his eyes were incredibly gratifying.

Mia Ragent (1L) & Ben Decelle (1L) at the Expunction Clinic in Canton, NC

I saw myself and my fellow 1Ls grow into advocates, fiercely fighting for our clients and searching for any possible way to help them. Though physically exhausting, it was mentally refreshing- a great reboot to finish off our second semester strong, with a tangible knowledge of why we toil through attempts to understand fee simple determinable, possibility of reverter.

Posted by Mia B. Ragent on Sun. March 15, 2015 6:05 PM
Categories: Spring Break 2015 (Western)

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