A new CSU C|M|LAW Pardon, Clemency, and Expungement Clinic, launching in January 2022, will represent clients seeking pardon or clemency from the Ohio Governor, or expungement of a prior conviction from a court.
The new CSU C|M|LAW Clinic was developed through a partnership with the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project (OGEPP). Governor Mike DeWine launched the OGEPP in 2019 to fast-track the pardon applications of specific candidates who have become law-abiding and contributing members of society. Since the project’s launch, 16 applicants have been pardoned with 86 others in various stages of the application process. CSU C|M|LAW will receive renewable funding through the partnership to sustain the Clinic’s operations.
"CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is thrilled to partner with Governor DeWine on the Expedited Pardon Project, which aligns directly with our C|M|LAW mission to 'Learn Law, Live Justice’," said Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich, Associate Dean for Academic Enrichment at CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and co-director (along with Professor Patti Falk) of the law school’s Criminal Justice Center. “Our students are passionate about making positive change in their community. By participating in this state-wide partnership, the Clinic and our students will immediately benefit from the training, resources, and guidance of the OGEPP.”
The CSU C|M|LAW Pardon, Clemency, and Expungement Clinic will partner on the project with LegalWorks, a Cleveland-based legal non-profit organization. LegalWorks has deep roots in the Cleveland community, with five neighborhood offices around Cuyahoga County as well as recurring neighborhood clinics, which permits the organization to reach several hundred Northeast Ohio residents annually. C|M|LAW's Community Advocacy Law Clinic, under the leadership of Professor Pamela Daiker-Middaugh, has partnered with LegalWorks in the past on community projects. CSU Cleveland-Marshall students, under the direct supervision of the Clinic’s full-time Staff Attorney, will work with LegalWorks on post-conviction cases that will serve as excellent training for students for a wide range of legal work, including criminal justice and advocacy careers.
“Representing clients seeking pardon, clemency, or expungement will develop students' skills in client relations, written and oral advocacy, and factual research and investigation,” explained Professor Witmer-Rich. “The clinic offers students a chance to positively impact clients' lives in an immediate and practical way.
“Almost one million Ohioans are living with a felony conviction, and many more have misdemeanor convictions. Because of the many collateral consequences of past convictions, those persons are often unfairly prevented from many opportunities to put their convictions behind them and move on with their lives,” Witmer-Rich continued. “A pardon from the governor, or the sealing of prior convictions, can permit individuals to get a fresh start and contribute to their communities. Because individuals seeking a pardon, clemency, or expungement often cannot afford to hire a lawyer, there is a strong community need for free legal representation in this area.”
The new Clinic will serve primarily Cuyahoga County, as well as surrounding counties. The Clinic Director will work directly with legal services organizations in each of the other counties to develop and carry out plans for direct community outreach to identify potential candidates for pardon/clemency.
The new clinic is the latest addition Cleveland-Marshall’s growing Criminal Justice Center’s educational offerings and criminal justice outreach, which also includes the Pretrial Justice Clinic and multiple hands-on “pop-up” practicums where C|M|LAW students work toward criminal justice reform.