The DC Bar Foundation seeks to fund organizations with new projects that tackle an emerging legal issue or have an innovative approach on a more traditional legal area. In the last two years alone, we have funded 14 new projects that are bringing free legal services to deeply underserved populations in DC.
One such project is Law Students in Court’s (LSIC) Expungement Clinic, which began in September 2015. Providing record sealing or expungement services has been a much-needed, under-resourced area of legal services for low-income DC residents for years. These services are critical because even if an individual was never even charged with a crime, he or she may have a criminal record which can prevent them from employment, education, and public assistance, to name a few. As clinic attorney Lora Silberman explains, the issue is clear and the goal is straightforward, “In every aspect of our client’s lives, a criminal record acts as an obstacle to their advancement and success. The Expungement Clinic seeks to address this obstacle and eliminate it for all eligible persons in the District of Columbia.” The LSIC Expungement Clinic’s services includes education, community participation, brief services, and full representation to DC residents. The clinic also utilizes pro bono attorneys and law students to amplify LSIC’s impact with the funding they receive from DCBF.
LSIC attorneys give Know-Your-Rights presentations to DC residents at a partner social service organization. Following each presentation, the attorneys conduct an in-depth interview with interested individuals to acquire information required to obtain the client’s criminal record. The attorneys then go to DC Superior Court and obtain each client’s official DC criminal record from the clerk’s office. Finally, if the client is eligible, a LSIC staff attorney or pro bono attorney is assigned to provide full representation for that individual.
DCBF is proud that, with our funding, we are filling the gap for critical legal services projects like LSIC’s Expungement Clinic.