CBA Sept.-Oct. 2020


can represent individuals. The court serves notice to the State’s Attorney’s Office, providing a 60-day opportunity to file an objection. The court considers the follow- ing factors in assessing whether to grant relief: the petitioner’s age at the time of conviction and time of filing; the time since the conviction; and the specific adverse consequences if the request is denied. If relief is granted, an order is entered vacat- ing the conviction, and directing the clerk’s office and law enforcement agencies to expunge the records. Due to the nuanced and individualized legal analysis and affirmative steps a person must take to access relief under the third category, the legislature appropriated fund- ing specifically for civil legal aid agencies to assist people in this process. The funding was directed to the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) to distribute to legal aid organizations, ensuring individuals across Illinois have access to legal advice and services. IEJF and a network of twenty agencies across the state have launched New Leaf Illinois, which provides legal Funding for Legal Aid: New Leaf Illinois

information and legal assistance. It creates a critical “front door” for services, which is operated by CARPLS and allows any person to register via an online portal, tele- phone, or text to receive an answer to the critical question: “Am I eligible for relief?” Staff and volunteers will research court records and provide an eligibility analysis to answer that question. When individu- als are identified as eligible for category three relief, and within income guidelines, CARPLS will refer them to the network of legal aid agencies representing petitioners throughout all counties in Illinois. Repairing harm and restoring lives affected by cannabis-related offenses is a call for all lawyers to take an active part. The legal aid community is strong but cannot do this alone. Each agency part of New Leaf Illinois has pro bono opportunities, to fit all skill and interest levels: • Research criminal court records (from your home or office) to help determine eligibility for cannabis expungement relief; • Provide brief service advice and counsel HowYou Can Help: Pro Bono Opportunities

to individuals who are trying to under- stand their records and navigate available options; • Prepare pro se petitions to expunge and seal arrest and conviction records from your home, office, or a virtual Help Desk; • Represent clients in criminal court on petitions to vacate and expunge convic- tions; and • Assist individuals in applying for indus- try licenses and identifying social equity cannabis loans. Visit to find the list of all legal aid grantees and start volunteering! We all can be part of restoring, reinvesting, and renewing our communities that have been harmed by decades of hyper-criminalization and the war on drugs. The legalization of cannabis provides unique and exciting opportunities to engage in these efforts. Nikki Donnelley, Beth Johnson, and Court- ney Kelledes are the founding partners of Rights and Restoration Law Group, LLC, an alumni firm of the CBF Justice Entrepreneurs Project.

24 September/October 2020

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