Five days before his birthday, a lifelong Baltimore resident sat in a plastic yellow chair at the Bon Secours Community Resource Center in West Baltimore patiently waiting as Gallagher Evelius & Jones attorney Joe Dugan deftly reviewed his paperwork.
Through Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, Joe and other Gallagher attorneys, paralegals and summer associates volunteered their services pro bono July 20 to help with an afternoon expungement clinic at the bustling community center.
An expungement involves the removal of court and police records from public inspection. For Joe’s client, it was an opportunity for “a clean slate.”
“It interferes with everything, even finding a place to live,” said the father and grandfather, of having his criminal record in public view.
Nearby, another client acknowledged his lengthy list of charges as Gallagher attorney David Sommer and a first-year law school student working as a summer associate combed through his charges one by one in an effort to determine if each was expungable.
Various stipulations and factors must be considered as clients petition to have their charges expunged. Non-conviction cases that are “nolle prosequi,” which is a legal notice that the prosecutor or plaintiff has decided not to prosecute, are seemingly easy to expunge after three years have passed, while some convictions may be expunged after 10 years as long as another, non-expungable conviction did not take place during the waiting period.
Criminal record relief through expungement is important to the client because having certain crimes as a matter of public record can impact everything from employment and housing to school applications and relationships.
“Volunteering a few hours of time to help make a meaningful difference in the lives of clients with limited financial means and resources is a small thing we can do as attorneys to make a tangible impact in the Baltimore community,” said Joe.
In one corner of the community center, it was hard to say who had the bigger smile, Gallagher attorney Saul Gilstein, or his client, as Saul handed him the completed expungement petition and said, “OK, we are ready for you to sign!”
To volunteer with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, visit this link: https://mvlslaw.org/volunteer/volunteer-sign-up/.
Saul E. GilsteinOf Counsel
Saul Gilstein offers clients his substantial experience in several diverse areas of practice including commercial leasing, the taxation of real estate, and employment law. He represents both landlords and tenants in commercial lease negotiations and has vast experience in counseling and defending clients with regard to sensitive employment matters and claims.