Twice this year, Legal Services of Northern Michigan (LSNM) has hosted a “Clean Record Clinic,” a free expungement clinic for low-income individuals. The goal is to help people clear old criminal convictions, particularly community members who are struggling to find safe housing and employment. LSNM partners with the Grand Traverse-Leelanau-Antrim Bar Association (GTLA), GTLA Women Lawyers Association, and various nonprofit agencies.
The clinic is coordinated by LSNM attorney Heather Abraham. Ms. Abraham is an Equal Justice Works Fellow dedicated to reducing rural homelessness in the Northwestern Lower Penninsula by using innovative legal tools and forming new pro bono partnerships. Ms. Abraham’s work is also supported by an Access to Justice grant from the Michigan State Bar Foundation and a grant from the Rotary Charities of Traverse City.
Clinic attorneys offer an initial one-on-one consulation. After helping clients complete forms and obtain fingerprints, pro bono attorneys provide full representation through the expungement process.
Attorney Michael Dunn has volunteered at both clinics. “This clinic is an extraordinary benefit to the community. As a former clinical professor at WMU Cooley Law School, I can say with confidence that the LSNM clinic was very organized, thorough, and provided valuable materials and forms.”
In total, the clinic has now served twenty clients and screened dozens more.
Nationwide, the use of criminal background checks has skyrocketed. Today, more than 80 percent of employers conduct background checks as part of their hiring procedures. With the use of background checks on the rise, many more applicants with past criminal records—even those who are eligible for expungement—will be unable to find a good-paying jobs, safe housing, and become more integrated members of society.
The biannual “Clean Record Clinic” will continue to help remove barriers and assist those with past criminal records in moving forward with their lives. For more information, please contact Heather Abraham at (231) 941-0771 x 205 or email Habraham@lsnm.org.