From the Multnomah Lawyer: YLS Pro Bono Spotlight: LASO Expungement Clinic Celebrates Fifth Anniversary
This April, the Clackamas County Expungement Clinic celebrated its fifth anniversary. In 2014, the Clackamas County Bar Association (CCBA) and Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO) collaborated to design a clinic model that would serve the needs of both clients and volunteer attorneys in helping low-income clients in Clackamas County complete expungement paperwork. When the Clackamas County Expungement Clinic held its first clinic, only eight people signed up, and four showed. Now entering its fifth year, the Expungement Clinic operates every other month, and has provided services to 251 clients thanks to the dedication of 60 attorneys who have donated over 450 hours of their time. More than ever, with rising homelessness and unemployment in the greater Portland metropolitan area, programs like the Expungement Clinic provide an essential service by helping to alleviate barriers to housing and employment.
As Erin White, LASO Staff Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator, explained, clients are first screened to ensure they are eligible to participate in the clinic. LASO then runs a background check on each client ahead of time to assist the volunteer attorney in advising the client whether their convictions may be expunged (or “set aside” as it is technically called in Oregon). If the client is eligible for expungement, the attorney assists in completing the relevant paperwork. The clinic also provides notary services and on-site fingerprinting, which the client must fi le with the court along with the client’s motion, affidavit, and order.
Although not everyone who walks in the door at the clinic is eligible for expungement, according to Tom Noble, an attorney in private practice who helped launch the clinic (and volunteers regularly), many clients find peace of mind in knowing their eligibility status. “The information that someone isn’t eligible is even helpful in some cases so that we can advise the client when they will be eligible.”
According to White, the attorney volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, including solo practitioners, new attorneys, and attorneys who specialize in criminal defense. To volunteer with the clinic, an attorney does not need to have expungement experience. LASO offers trainings, often attorneys pair up at the clinic to meet with clients, and there are on-site mentors at the clinic to help. Furthermore, LASO’s pro bono projects, including the expungement clinic, are OSB-certified programs and provide professional liability coverage to otherwise uninsured volunteers actively licensed in Oregon.
If you are interested in serving as a volunteer attorney at an upcoming Clackamas County Expungement Clinic, please contact Erin White at 503.224.4086 or Erin.White@lasoregon.org. Those interested in receiving services and/or participating in an upcoming clinic to have convictions expunged should contact the Portland Regional Office of LASO at 503.224.4086 for more information on registration. The clinic does not accept walk-ins.
LASO would like to extend a special thanks to J. Rion Bourgeois, John Haub, Nancy Hochman, James Keddis, Maria Keddis, Lisa Miller, Thomas Noble, Ben Pirie, Bruce (William) Shepley, and the Hon. Jill Tanner for volunteering at four or more expungement clinics over the last two years.
View All Articles