Clean Slate Practice Celebrates Ten Years of Providing Second Chances

Monday, November 2, 2015

Berkeley Law – By Andrew Cohen

In April 2005, the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) hosted a “Clean Slate Summit” at Laney College in Oakland. Organized by EBCLC leaders Tirien Steinbach ’99 and Margaret Richardson ’03, the event drew more than 900 people—twice the expected attendance—who wanted to work but faced major barriers to employment because of their criminal records.

Back then, Eliza Hersh ’05 was an aspiring public interest attorney on the verge of graduating from Berkeley Law. Today, she directs the Clean Slate Practice, which EBCLC launched soon after that memorable gathering. Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Clean Slate has achieved enormous success wiping away criminal records, while fighting an uphill battle amid staggering incarceration rates in California—particularly among people of color.

“Over the last decade, through close collaboration with our community partners who are directly impacted by reentry policies, Clean Slate has evolved to both better serve our clients and engage in systems-change work,” Hersh said.

The practice has served nearly 10,000 low-income people in the Easy Bay, trained more than 150 law students in providing reentry legal services, and forged a strong network of area and national partners. In doing so, Clean Slate’s innovative approach has generated hope for formerly incarcerated people who are eager to become productive citizens.

Danica Rodarmel ’17 recently helped a Clean Slate client prevail in a hearing to seal and destroy an arrest record on the basis of factual innocence. Rodarmel argued on behalf of the client, a domestic violence survivor, and drafted the winning motion with Jenna Raspanti ’17.

“Working with Clean Slate for the last year has been life changing,” said the client, who asked to remain anonymous, via text. “Under Eliza’s supervision, the students always kept me in the loop regarding my court hearing and made it a smooth process. As I now pursue a nursing career, I’m hopeful about the future. I’m so grateful to Clean Slate for all the good work it does for the community.” Continue reading…

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