The Pre-Law Society at UC Santa Barbara works with the People’s Justice Project to provide free legal services to area clients, including record expungement, crime reduction, and record sealing. Informally dubbed the “Clean Slate Clinic,” this volunteer-run project provides free records expungement services to anyone who qualifies, from possession charges to disorderly conduct.
Other local entities, such as the Community Services District of Isla Vista and California Rural Legal Aid, will also work on the project.
The clinic came to fruition through conversations between UCSB’s Pre-Law Society and Joseph Doherty of the People’s Justice Project, eventually brainstorming the concept of providing legal advice to clear records regardless of economic status.
“We collaborated and brainstormed until we came to this idea of providing free record erasing services on the streets of IV for anyone in the community,” said Alyssa Rodriguez.
Pre-Law Society co-founder and past president Gabriella Sterritt said the initiative goes hand-in-hand with the founding mission of the UCSB Pre-Law Society: to provide hands-on experiences for students interested in the legal field.
“When we originally founded the company, we were trying to create a strong program for kids who wanted to go to law school, and one of the things we wanted to include was some sort of volunteer initiative,” Sterritt said. .
Alyssa Rodriguez, a fourth-year global studies major and chair of the project, pointed out that while there isn’t a specific demographic the project hopes to reach, it’s an open resource for anyone looking for legal consultations.
“We don’t want anyone to be economically burdened so that they can’t get legal information, because if you are able to get legal information, it can determine some serious decisions in your life,” said Rodríguez.
Sterritt explained that often charges in any capacity can have a significant impact on an individual’s success in obtaining housing, employment and more.
“We offer the Clean State Clinic specifically with record expungement, expungement, and misdemeanor reduction to give people a better future,” Sterritt said. “If they can have their records shortened or expunged, they have better housing and better job prospects in the future.”
For Dan Chu, president of the UCSB Pre-Law Society and president of the UCSB Pre-Law Society, the initiative also recognizes the lack of education around knowing one’s rights when interacting with the police.
“The police aren’t necessarily there for your best interest, and if there are certain things they do that aren’t necessarily what they’re supposed to do, we provide education on that,” said Chu. .
Promotion of the clinic has been successful so far, with the organization’s latest briefing on September 14 bringing together 20 different cases from the community.
“Even from our briefing, we were able to narrow down 20 different cases that we’re going to file motions for and then get involved in those cases,” Sterritt said.
The records cleaning process itself involves creating a petition for the client that includes the “good” they have done since being charged, from getting a job to proving sobriety if the charge is drug-related.
“Joseph is basically going to create a petition that highlights the facts of what you’ve done since your arrest,” Sterritt said. “This shows why it affects your file and why it should be erased.”
The petition will be filed in court with letters of recommendation from anyone in that person’s life who could help the client’s case.
“From there, they collect letters of recommendation from teachers, families [and] any other official who can help the petition, then we wrap your entire petition in a legal statement, attaching your supporting documents as attachments or as “exhibits”. Then it will be filed with the court,” she continued. “If a hearing is required by the court, they will come to your hearing and defend your claim in court and fight it on your behalf.”
The process for expunging records depends on the seriousness of the charge, with more minor charges being dealt with immediately at the table.
“If it’s a more minor load, we can actually just do the clearing service from table saves right there,” Rodriguez said. “Mr. Doherty estimated it would take 5-10 minutes to clear a file… From there, at Doherty’s discretion, we could potentially represent a client if they were to go to trial.
Sterritt said there is a general lack of knowledge on the part of students about processes such as record sealing and expungement that can significantly affect an individual’s future.
“Until recently, I was not even aware of the sealing and expunging of the file. I didn’t really know that was an available thing,” Sterritt said. “Students are going to find that you can remove that one thing from your record that can seriously prevent you from finding a job or a house.”
A version of this article originally appeared on p. 4 of the September 22, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.