“Clean slate” clinic clears criminal records for Durham residents

NCCU Law, NCBA Corporate Counsel Section, Legal Aid NC partner up for expunction event

DURHAM · NC Central University School of Law and our Durham Expunction and Restoration (DEAR) Program hosted some special guests April 5 at an expunction clinic at the law school. Members of the Corporate Counsel Section of the NC Bar Association joined us to partner with law students to provide pro bono expunctions to Legal Aid NC clients in Durham. 

“I was worried this would be really complicated, but it wasn’t” said Elizabeth McKee, Chair of the Corporate Counsel Section, who volunteered at the event. “It was really easy. It helped that I partnered with a seasoned person who knew what they were doing.” 

That “seasoned person” was NCCU Law 2L Taiesha Morgan, a frequent participant in the law school’s expunction clinics. Asked about her interest in the subject, Taiesha, who wants to work in criminal law, said, “People have the right to expunge their records, but it’s a complicated process. Just being able to help is awesome.” 

Providing an opportunity for law students to network with attorneys was an important goal of the clinic, according to Jane Paksoy, Co-Chair of the Corporate Counsel Section’s Pro Bono/Community Service Committee, who participated in the event along with fellow Co-Chair Tracy Gaskins. Another goal was to provide in-house counsel with a meaningful and manageable pro bono opportunity. 

“In-house attorneys have less exposure to traditional pro bono opportunities than some of our colleagues,” Jane said. “Pro bono opportunities like today’s clinic are ideal for in-house attorneys. You don’t need a criminal law background to do expunction work and it’s a meaningful way to make an impact in a short amount of time.” 

Making an impact is what motivates Lakethia Jefferies, Director of the Pro Bono Clinic at NCCU Law, to organize these clinics. She wants to show students the meaningful difference that attorneys can make in the real world. 

“People with criminal records may not be able to get housing or jobs,” Lakethia said. “Something as simple as clearing a few marks off someone’s record can make a world of difference. These clinics allow law students to do access-to-justice work and see what a difference they can make for real clients. It also shows students that regardless of what practice area they go into, they can still do this work as a volunteer and make a difference.”

Ali Nininger-Finch, attorney with our DEAR Program, provided training to the law students and attorneys on how to prepare an expunction petition. Ali and DEAR paralegal Jeremiah Brutus (an NCCU Law alum), provided support to the volunteers during the clinic.