UC Santa Barbara’s Pre-Law Society is collaborating with the People’s Justice Project to provide free legal services for clients in the local area, including record expungement, felony reduction and record sealing. Unofficially dubbed the “Street Law Clinic,” this volunteer-led project is providing record clearing services for anyone eligible free of charge, from possession charges to disorderly conduct.
Other local entities, like the Isla Vista Community Services District and California Rural Legal Assistance, will also be working on the project.
The clinic came to fruition through conversations between UCSB’s Pre-Law Society society and Joseph Doherty from the People’s Justice Project, eventually brainstorming the concept of providing legal advice for clearing records regardless of economic status.
“We collaborated and brainstormed until we reached this idea of providing free record-clearing services on the streets of I.V. for any community member,” Alyssa Rodriguez said.
Co-founder and former president of Pre-Law Society Gabriella Sterritt said the initiative goes hand in hand with the UCSB Pre-Law Society’s founding mission: providing hands-on experiences for students interested in the legal field.
“When we originally founded the society, we were trying to create a robust curriculum for kids that were interested in going to law school, and one of the things we wanted to include was a volunteer initiative of some sort,” Sterritt said.
Fourth-year global studies major and project chair Alyssa Rodriguez emphasized that while there’s no specific demographic the project is hoping to reach, it’s an open resource for anybody seeking legal consultations.
“We don’t want anyone to be economically burdened so that they can’t get legal information because whether you’re able to get legal information can determine some serious decisions in your life,” Rodriguez said.
Sterritt explained that oftentimes, charges in any capacity can significantly impact an individual’s success in securing housing, employment and more.
“We offer the Clean State Clinic specifically with the record clearing, the expungement and the felony reduction to provide people with better prospects for the future,” Sterritt said. “If they can get their records either shortened or cleared, they have better housing and better job prospects in the future.”
For fourth-year political science and economics double major and UCSB Pre-Law Society President Dan Chu, the initiative is also recognizing the lack of education around knowing one’s rights in regards to police interaction.
“Police officers aren’t necessarily there for your best interests, and if there are certain things that they’re doing that aren’t necessarily in line with what they’re supposed to be doing, we provide education on that,” Chu said.
Promotion of the clinic has been successful thus far, with the organization’s last information session on Sept. 14 gathering 20 different cases from the community.
“Even just from our info session, we were able to retain 20 different cases that we’re going to file petitions for and then be involved in those cases,” Sterritt said.
The process of cleaning records itself involves creating a petition for the client that includes the “good” they have done since their charge, from securing employment to proving sobriety if the charge is drug related.
“Joseph will basically create a petition that highlights the facts of what you’ve done since your arrest,” Sterritt said. “That shows why this is affecting your record and why it should get cleared off.”
The petition will be filed in court alongside letters of recommendation from anyone in that individual’s life that could help the client’s case.
“From there, they collect letters of recommendations from professors, family [and] any other official that can help the petition, and then we package your whole petition into a legal declaration, attaching your supporting documents as attachments or as ‘exhibits.’ Then it will be filed with the court,” she continued. “If a hearing is required by the court, they will go to your hearing and defend your petition to the court and fight it on your behalf.”
The process of record clearing depends on the seriousness of the charge, with more minor charges being dealt with immediately at the table.
“If it’s a more minor charge, we can actually just do the record clearing service at the table right there,” Rodriguez said. “Mr. Doherty has estimated the time to be 5 to 10 minutes to clear a record … From there, under Doherty’s discretion, we could potentially represent a client if it were to go to trial.”
Sterritt said that there is a general lack of knowledge from students on processes like record sealing and expungement that can significantly affect an individual’s future.
“Until recently, I wasn’t even aware of the record sealing and expungement. I didn’t really know that was an available thing,” Sterritt said. “Students are going to find out that you can get this thing off your record that may be seriously affecting you getting a job or a house.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the Sept. 22, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
CORRECTION [9/26, 6:28 p.m.]: A previous version of the article referred to the clinic as the “Clean Slate Clinic,” as unofficially dubbed by UCSB Pre-Law Society. The organization has since changed the name of the initiative to “Street Law Clinic,” which the article was changed to reflect.