By CSG Justice Center staff
In 2008, Margaret Stevenson (left) started the Record Clearance Project (RCP), which trains undergraduate students at San José State University to assist people with criminal records throughout the expungement process. Since its founding, RCP students have helped file more than 1,200 clearance petitions with a 99 percent success rate. Additionally, they have gotten more than $65,000 in fines and fees waived or forgiven on behalf of their clients.
Students in RCP enroll in two courses as part of their expungement work. The Practical Legal Skills course teaches them about California record clearance laws, how to interpret a client’s rap sheet, interviewing, legal writing and strategies for delivering effective community presentations. In the Advanced Internship course, students are assigned at least two clients to prepare expungement petitions for. Students in both courses often work with volunteer attorneys and visiting law students to screen and prepare clients for court appearances.
Under Stevenson’s tutelage, RCP’s work continues to grow. In 2016 alone, RCP connected with 2,500 people in the San José area through its record clearance services. Additionally, through its Pathway to Expungement program, RCP has hired three former clients to serve as mentors to people with criminal records as they prepare for the expungement process. RCP created a pilot program that offers the clinic’s Practical Legal Skills course at the local jail, and in Fall 2016 RCP offered the course for college credit. RCP also bought a mobile LiveScan fingerprinting machine so that it can help people start the expungement process by offering accessible, free, or low-cost rap sheets.
While several law schools offer legal clinics that train law students to represent clients in record clearance cases, RCP is unique in training undergraduate students, and can provide a model for undergraduate universities around the country.
Learn more about the Record Clearance Project.