Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, Lawyers for Learners offer expungement of records clinic at JWCC

Land of Lincoln

Pictured from left are Daniel Kuehnert with Land of Lincoln, James Rapp of Schmiedeskamp, Robertson Neu & Mitchell LLP, William Meckes of Schmiedeskamp, Robertson Neu & Mitchell LLP, Chelsea Hubbard with Land of Lincoln, Christopher Scholz with Scholz Palmer & Duesterhaus LLP, Mark Taylor with Land of Lincoln and Judge William Mays (retired). | Photo courtesy of Land of Lincoln Legal Aid

QUINCY — Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, Lawyers for Learners and John Wood Community College joined forces on Wednesday, March 8 at JWCC to host a free legal clinic for clearing criminal records.

The collaboration benefitted 38 community members, with almost a dozen receiving in-person consultations from volunteering local attorneys and former judges. Participants were Judge William Mays (retired) and attorneys Ted Niemann, William Meckes, David Penn, Christopher Scholz and James Rapp.

The event focused on helping prepare requests for expungement and sealing of legal records that were hurting participants’ housing and employment opportunities. The legislature has expressly authorized the sealing and expungement process because it vitally benefits the economy and society to allow citizens the opportunity to work and live productive lives without being held back by youthful missteps resulting in an arrest or conviction.

Land of Lincoln attorneys and staff, with the above volunteers, helped guide participants through their legal paperwork, the first step of this legal process to request to expunge and/or seal their Adams County criminal records. An expungement is a legal court order that destroys a criminal record and removes it from public view. Records that cannot be expunged because they resulted in convictions may be eligible to be sealed. Sealing limits who has access to the records. It generally takes several months from when a petition for expungement and sealing is filed until a decision is made by a judge.

Quincy’s local attorneys said they enjoyed meeting one-on-one with participants, who demonstrated they were determined to improve not just their own circumstances but that of their families and communities through higher level education, better job options and better access to housing.

The participants must next seek approval of the court to clear specific records. Many expressed gratitude for this start towards their goal because they received explanations of the process, help with the legal forms and free legal counsel about their circumstances.

Land of Lincoln provides free legal help with many types of civil legal matters, including expungements and sealing, across 65 Illinois counties year-round. The Alton office serves the legal needs of 12 counties, including Adams, Pike, Brown, Schuyler and Hancock counties.

Land of Lincoln plans to open a Quincy branch office this summer, focusing on free legal help with divorces, custody matters, and orders of protection for issues of domestic abuse and violence.

More about Land of Lincoln Legal Aid is available at https://lincolnlegal.org/. More about Lawyers for Learners can be found at https://lawyersforlearners.org/.

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