It’s been five years since “Jim” served his sentence for a non-violent conviction. It’s the only criminal conviction he’s ever had. And now, he wants to apply for a job. But Jim’s criminal record stands between him and the job.
In 2012, Tennessee passed an expungement law designed to help people just like Jim. But there’s one problem. The filing fee is $350. So even though Jim qualifies and could have his record expunged, it’s difficult for a person without a decent job to scrape together the hundreds of dollars to file.
Here’s where a new program developed by the Law Offices of the Shelby County Public Defender fits into Jim’s story. It’s called the Clean Slate Fund and with the help of a $5,000 grant from the Memphis Bar Foundation, the program will pay some or all of a qualified candidate’s filing fee.
The public defender’s office was one of 10 organizations awarded a grant by the charitable arm of the Memphis Bar Association. The recipients were recognized at the 2013 Memphis Bar Foundation Fellows Reception at the Peabody Hotel on October 8, 2013.
Social Justice Rewarded
One of the newest members of our office was also recognized at the MBA’s reception — law clerk and 2013 University of Memphis Law graduate, Chris Martin, was awarded the Irvin Bogatin Social Justice Award. Martin was recognized for the hundreds of hours of service dedicated during law school to highly successful social justice projects such as Alternative Spring Break and Street Court. In 2012, Martin was also the recipient of the Tennessee Bar Association Law School Volunteer of the Year Award.
“I believe that access to justice isn’t just a cause for one organization, or even a calling for an individual lawyer,” said Martin during his acceptance speech. “Equal access to justice is a professional standard that all lawyers should hold themselves accountable to in their practice.”
Martin is one of the coordinators of the Clean Slate Fund for the public defender’s office. If you or someone you know might be eligible for expungement in Tennessee, click here to check the requirements and fill out this form from the Shelby County website.
If you have already qualified for expungement but need help paying for the expungement fee, you can apply for our Clean Slate Fund by downloading this application:
If you have a subscription to the Commercial Appeal, you can read this article about the fund.