Pro Bono Project’s Expungement Clinic to collaborate with local organizations Feb. 24

Photo of District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield (JD '91), coordinator of the law school's Pro Bono Clinic

District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield (JD '91), coordinator of the law school's Pro Bono Clinic

The Pro Bono Project’s Expungement Clinic is partnering with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Winston-Salem Chapter,  the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, the Forsyth County Criminal Defense Bar,  Legal Aid of Northwest North Carolina  and the Winston-Salem Bar Association for a collaborative event that will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, at the NAACP Headquarters, 4130 Oak Drive. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is not required, according to organizers. The Winston-Salem Chronicle also reported on this event.

Organizers say the goal of the event is to educate the public about changes in expungement laws, identify criteria for people who may be eligible for expungement, and discuss pros and cons of expungement and how criminal records can be a barrier to employment. An update on pending legislation in this area and a discussion about community needs concerning criminal records will be part of the event. Other activities will include information gathering and a mock intake presentation.

The Expungement Clinic’s student organizers state, “The information session on Feb. 24 will be a great opportunity for us to engage with community partners, especially the NAACP and the Minister’s Conference, while also helping to give those in attendance a better understanding of the expungement process in North Carolina. With the change in the expungement statute late last year that made expungement more accessible to more people, there is now more than ever an opportunity to help people clear their records and move forward with their lives. We hope that the information session will arm those in attendance (and those they pass the information on to) with the knowledge of their rights and opportunities under the new law.”

The Wake Forest Pro Bono Project’s Expungement Clinic helps people convicted of misdemeanors and felonies get convictions expunged from their records. For these individuals, this typically means more job opportunities, housing options and eligibility for public benefits.

Wake Forest School of Law’s Pro-Bono Coordinator and contact for this collaboration is District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield (JD ’91), coordinator for the law school’s Pro Bono Project. Hartsfield, a native of Winston-Salem, says,  “community collaboration is essential in the pro bono arena… Giving back to the community at large is at the heart of what lawyers do.” When asked about the event, Harstfield elaborates that, “the pro bono expungement project has taken a positive turn in terms of collaborations and with organization and information accountability.  With so many positive changes to the North Carolina expungement laws, the project feels strongly that public education is essential to ensure that residents know and fully understand their rights in this area.  The students are excited to have this platform , and hope to inform more residents about opportunities to clean up criminal records.”

The Local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) strives to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial discrimination.  The Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity focuses its efforts on maintaining close Christian fellowship and finding solutions to valid concerns through ministers and pastors of local churches. This organization has completed 111 projects and awarded $100+ in scholarships.

Forsyth County Criminal Defense Bar provides support and training for those practicing in criminal law in Forsyth County, making it an additional key partner for this collaborative event.  Legal Aid of Northwest North Carolina (LANC) is a statewide, nonprofit law that provides legal assistance in civil matters to eligible, low-income clients who have problems satisfying basic needs. The Winston-Salem Bar Association encourages African-American lawyers to dedicate their skills to uplift local communities.

For more information about the event, please email Judge Hartsfield at denise.s.hartsfield@nccourts.org or Pro Bono Project organizers Melanie Cormier or John Ryan at wakelawexpungements@gmail.com.