The Illinois State University Legal Studies Program launched an expungement clinic in fall 2020. The clinic provides hands-on legal experience to all Legal Studies students who assist low-income individuals seeking to expunge and seal old criminal records. The clinic gives these clients access to employment, rental, and lending opportunities necessary for moving forward with their lives. This venture is a collaborative project with the Bloomington office of Prairie State Legal Services (PSLS). The effort is consistent with objectives of the ISU and CAS strategic plans: enriching engagement and facilitating academic excellence.
PSLS administers the Criminal Record Relief Program to assist low-income clients to expunge and seal old criminal records. PSLS has difficulty meeting the demand for these services.
Students enrolled in Litigation I and II learn how to prepare expungement/records sealing documents. PSLS refers expungement and sealing files to the Legal Studies program which in turn assigns the cases to litigation students to prepare court documents for these clients. The Director of Legal Studies serves as the supervising attorney on each file. Each student researches and charts each client’s criminal record. After the supervising attorney reviews and revises the case chart, the student prepares a request for relief, notice, and proposed order.
The expungement clinic provides experiential learning while helping students appreciate the importance of serving others who are unable to afford legal services. The clinic also advances the university’s mission of civic engagement. Since it was established, the clinic has involved 51 students who assisted 54 clients in 62 cases.