Law school to host Expungement Day event

More than 200 people are expected to attend Expungement receiving free access to their criminal records and reviewing what convictions qualify for removal from their criminal history.

UMKC School of Law will be hosting the event in collaboration with Morning Star Baptist Church, Code for KC and Missouri Prosecutor’s Office. It will run on Saturday, April 27 from 8-11 a.m. at Morningstar Youth and Family Life Center.

For Kansas City residents with criminal records, an opportunity like this could be life-changing.

“They often have trouble getting housing. They often have trouble getting jobs,” said junior Kylee Gomez. “They often have trouble getting any kind of service.”

Gomez is one of the leading students working on the Clear My Record Project through the UMKC School of Law. The project is one of the focuses in the Law, Technology, and Public Policy class taught by Professor and former Dean Ellen Suni.

Suni felt the need for a project after Missouri passed a new statute regarding expungement in January 2018. The statute made it easier for people to get convictions removed, but with Suni’s history in criminal law, she knew the statute change wasn’t a complete solution.

Many people who need expungements are unable to afford lawyers. And organizations like Legal Aid and the Missouri State Public Defender System lack the staffing and funding to help this population.

This led Suni to the realization that “unless we do it, nobody’s going to do it.”

At the same time, Professor Scott Stockwell, who volunteers with Code for KC, was aware the organization was also getting interested in the issue of expungement. This shared interest lead to a nearly year-and-a-half collaboration on the project.

Part of the collaboration has been the development of an intake application. The new statute made a form available for individuals to fill out without hiring an attorney. This legislature created a starting point for Suni and Stockwell to create a system where a person could fill the form out independently and file it through the app.

“We are trying to build the tool for people to eventually do it themselves and lawyers to be able to serve modest-means people because of the efficiency,” said Suni.

Until the application is finished, the team is still hoping to help those in need through outreach and events like Expungement Day.

“The response we’ve received to this project has reinforced what we already believed,” said Stockwell. “That there is a tremendous demand for this service. We have people seeking expungement for cases that are as old as 1973. If you take the body of all those people from 1973 to the last three years, you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of people who could potentially be benefitted by an efficient and working expungement system.”

And if the response is anything to go by, it won’t be the last one.

Expungement Day is a free event at Morning Star Youth and Family Life Center from 8-11 a.m on Saturday, April 27. Those interested can sign up at info.umkc.edu/clearmyrecord.

jodifortino@gmail.com

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