Pro Bono Project Expungement Clinics inform community members about new N.C. laws

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Some 175 Winston-Salem area residents learned more about recent changes in the laws in North Carolina regarding expungements at a Wake Forest School of Law Expungement Clinic information session held in partnership with the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Minister’s Conference of Winston-Salem on Feb. 24, 2018, according to organizers.

“This was unlike our typical Expungement Clinics, where a smaller number of individuals come in and meet with one or two law students to determine if they may qualify,” said Melanie Cormier (JD ’18), who along with John Ryan  (JD ’19), helped organize the clinic as co-coordinators of this particular Pro Bono Project.

A group of law student volunteers, District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield (JD ’91), Outreach Director Hazel Mack and six volunteer attorneys came together to speak to individuals at the NAACP, Cormier explained.

“We discussed expungements, why it is important to clean up a record and the difference between misdemeanors and felonies and dismissed charges,” she said.  ”We informed them of the clinic’s process and that we were working with Judge Hartsfield, Legal Aid in Forsyth County and local attorneys volunteering pro bono to assist individuals in getting their records expunged.”

Cormier continued, “NAACP President Alvin Carlisle and Bishop Todd Fulton worked extremely hard to notify the community of this information session and it was a huge success.

“Our very helpful law student volunteers met with each individual to determine if they may qualify for an expungement. At the end of the day, we had 49 individuals that may qualify, which is amazing! Some did not qualify for our clinic because their records were out of the county and we were limited to records in Forsyth County, but they still may qualify in another county.  We are going to pull the records for the 49 individuals and hold an Expungement Clinic Roundtable with Judge Hartsfield to see if they qualify to send to Legal Aid to be distributed to our very helpful pro bono attorneys. We were all incredibly pleased with the amount of people who showed up that were eager to learn more about how to get their records expunged.

“John and I are very grateful for the dedication of our law school friends and volunteers. We typically have the same students attend the clinics and they all came on Saturday to help out. We would not have a successful clinic if it was not for these students, Judge Hartsfield, or the attorneys who dedicate a lot of their time to us. I am hoping this success continues in the years to come and I know John and whomever takes our place as project co-coordinators will continue to work to better our community.”

The Pro Bono Project is hosting two upcoming Expungement Clinics:

When: Wednesday, March 14, 4 to 6 p.m.

Where: ESR, 3480 Dominion St., Winston-Salem, NC 27105 (map)

Please contact for more information.

When: Wednesday, March 21, 5 to 7 p.m.

Where: Samaritan Ministries, 414 E. Northwest Blvd., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 (map)

Please contact for more information.