DETROIT – Because criminal convictions prevent many low-income people in Wayne County from obtaining employment or housing, Legal Aid and Defender Association, Inc. (LAD) is helping them obtain expungements of their convictions from the courts, according to Lynda Krupp, managing attorney of LAD’s Private Attorney Involvement Unit.
Michigan allows people with only one conviction who have clean records for five years from their release from jail or date of conviction if given probation to seek expungements of their criminal records, Krupp said. People granted expungements can state on employment or housing applications that they have no criminal convictions, she said.
To help low-income people obtain expungements, LAD is partnering with Pro-Literacy Detroit, the Wolverine Bar Association (WBA) and Wayne County’s Second Chance Thru Expungement Project (STEP), Krupp said.
As part of this effort, LAD joined with the WBA to conduct a clinic at Pro-Literacy Detroit July 30 to train pro bono attorneys to screen students seeking expungements. Pro-Literacy Detroit, Michigan’s largest literacy organization, provides free literacy services for persons age 16 and older who cannot read or have difficulty reading.
“The WBA recognizes that Pro-Literacy Detroit is doing important work to equip their clients with strong literacy skills,” said Brandy Robinson, law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Julian Abele Cook, Jr. and WBA president. “We’re honored to work with Pro-Literacy Detroit and Legal Aid and Defender to help eliminate a key barrier to employment, especially in this difficult economy.”
LAD’s Private Attorney Involvement Unit also conducts assisted pro se expungement clinics at its Detroit office for pro bono attorneys and prepares them to represents LAD clients at expungement hearings, Krupp said. Mary Blaney, a LAD staff attorney, coordinates the unit’s expungement project.
“Pro bono attorneys report great satisfaction in helping clients get on with their lives and obtain employment and housing,” Krupp said. “The impact on our clients is profound.”
LAD is Michigan's oldest and largest provider of free civil legal services to low-income residents. It serves metropolitan Detroit through its offices in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. It also represents criminal defendants in Wayne County and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Including brief consultations and comprehensive legal services, the public law firm handles some 15,000 legal matters yearly.
"We work with clients in a comprehensive manner, so that as we solve their legal problems, we help solve other problems as well," LAD President and CEO Deierdre L. Weir said. "We help people rebuild their lives and help families stay together."
Anyone seeking legal services, including expungement of criminal convictions, can call (877) 964-4700 or visit http://www.ladadetroit.org.