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The James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, the Youth Job Center, the City of Evanston and the Office of Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin partnered to co-host the Second Annual Northern Cook County Expungement Expo at the Evanston Public Library on Saturday, April 14, 2012. The event was a huge success with over 130 individuals served.
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By Brittany Estell (Legal Fellow)
We are living in a tough economy where market for jobs is tense and competitive. In such an aggressive environment, every potential employee’s goal is to have his resume stand out and his background spotless! No one wants an employer to simply deny their application on the basis of a past infraction. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the Moran Center sponsors an Expungement Help Desk at the Skokie Courthouse (5600 Old Orchard Road in Skokie). Members of the community are able to come and get advice, have their sealing and/or expungement forms filled out, and also have the very confusing process explained to them…all free of charge!
Over the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to come across clients from all walks of life seeking some ray of sunshine, from the cloud hanging over them. Most recently, we had a client who had several cases on public record, all of which had been dismissed. As of late he had been laid off from his job, and was now seeking new employment. Although he had no convictions, he did not want an employer to judge him based on cases he had not even been prosecuted for. Speaking with him while filling out his paperwork, I learned that he had been continually applying for jobs but had not been getting much feedback, even with the amount of experience he had with his previous employer. We were able to fill out his paperwork, and he went into the clerks office and filed that day!
In addition, while at the desk, I was able to meet a woman who returned to let us know that she had received the notice that her record was going to be expunged. She had been coming to the desk since early summer seeking help on expunging and sealing records from the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s. She had many steps in this process, due to the arrests in multiple jurisdictions, but from what I gathered, our desk was there to help her every step of the way.
At the desk I have seen the greatest extension of gratitude from members of the public, both from persons grateful that we were able to help them and other’s grateful for the mere access to information. The Expungement Help Desk is an irreplaceable resource allowing community members to get a fresh start!
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Andrea Lubelfeld, Senior Staff Attorney at the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, represents our clients who have cases in Juvenile Court. She has over 20 years of practice as a criminal defense attorney. Prior to joining the Moran Center staff, Andrea served in the Juvenile, Felony Trial and Multiple Defendants Divisions of the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender. Andrea received her law degree from the IIT Chicago Kent College of Law. She began her undergraduate education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received her B.A. in Political Science from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.
If you ask Andrea about her job, she will tell you that it is multi-faceted. Among other things, her duties include meeting with clients for intake and follow-up, preparing court documents, collecting evidence, drafting and serving subpoenas, analyzing evidence, conducting legal research, working with our social work staff to coordinate services,and supervising volunteer attorneys and interns — all in a days work! She splits her time between working in the Moran Center office, arguing cases in court, visiting clients at their homes, schools, or detention centers, and representing the Moran Center at events and seminars throughout the Evanston and Chicagoland areas.
Andrea is very attuned to the needs of her clients, and is constantly thinking of ideas for new programs that would be beneficial to them. She has a great spirit of collaboration, both with her clients, their families, and other Moran Center staff members. Most of all, Andrea really cares about her clients. For her, the most rewarding part of her job is making a difference in the lives of young people. Andrea develops a level of trust with her clients, because they quickly learn that she truly cares about them on a personal level and is invested in their success. She isn’t one to sugarcoat the challenges of her job, however. “People are in a crisis and the odds are stacked against them,” she says. “The law isn’t fair, judges aren’t fair, and the state has a lot more advantages than the defense lawyers do. It is an uphill battle.” Still, Andrea is persistent, and her clients know that she will never give up on them. That is part of what makes her such a successful attorney.
When she is not at work at the Moran Center, Andrea enjoys spending time with her three children and her husband, who is also an attorney and professor at Northwestern University Law School. While she enjoys cooking and taking care of her family, she also likes to take a break from her busy schedule sometimes to knit or read a good book. In fact, Andrea is a member of a book club, started with a group of her friends when their children were very young. They continue to have book club meetings today, getting together in Chicago’s Greektown for delicious cuisine, literary discussion, and plenty of laughs!
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1, 2011
First Informational Expungement Expo Draws 150
Attorneys Michael Roche and Tom Verdun assist a participant at the Expo.
The first annual Northern Cook County Informational Expungement Expo drew over 150 people to the Levy Senior Center in Evanston on Saturday, May 21st, 2011. The Expo was a free event, open to the public to educate and aid people with criminal records. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin even stopped by to welcome the crowd!
Event participants were able to consult attorneys about their records, connect with community organizations, and attend panel discussions about challenges that people with criminal records face, including diminished employment opportunities and difficulty obtaining housing assistance or college financial aid. Participants responded favorably to the presentations, finding the panelists’ remarks helpful and informative. One participant remarked that the panelists “covered all the things employers are going to check on and how to clear one’s record”. Another said that the panel discussion he viewed provided “clear, concrete information”.
In addition to viewing panel discussions, most participants met one-on-one with attorneys, who reviewed their criminal histories and helped those found eligible for record expungement or sealing to fill out the necessary paperwork. Those who were not eligible were counseled on other steps that could be taken, such as satisfactorily completing a statutory waiting period, petitioning for executive clemency, or resolving instances of criminal identity theft.
Jordan Burghardt, Employment Outreach Coordinator at the Youth Job Center of Evanston, played a large role in planning and organizing the Expo. The Youth Job Center is one of several organizations that co-hosted the event. Reflecting on the Expo subsequent to the event, Ms. Burghardt described it as “a great opportunity to give Chicago and North Shore residents the chance to meet with volunteer attorneys for free to find out their options regarding sealing, expungement, and executive clemency. We hope that participants got a lot of information out of it.”
As Ms. Burghardt had hoped, many Expo attendees did find it very informative and worthwhile. 100% of the participants who completed an exit survey prior to leaving the event indicated that they found the Expo to be helpful. Some participants detailed the new knowledge they had gleaned. One discovered that “build(ing) up references to overcome criminal records” could be an advantageous job-hunting strategy, while another was simply able to obtain the necessary instructions “to know about (her) background and expunge (her) record”.
The Northern Cook County Informational Expungement Expo was a result of collaborative efforts between the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, the Youth Job Center of Evanston, the City of Evanston, Project NIA, Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (LAF), and the Office of The Honorable Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Evanston Community Foundation provided generous funding for the event, and Starbucks was an event sponsor. For more information about the annual Northern Cook County Expungement Expo, please click here.
Kathy Lyons, the Moran Center’s Senior Staff Attorney, Special Education Legal Advocacy Project, advocates for parents of students in Evanston school disctricts 65 and 202, helping them to, in her words, “work with the schools(s) to secure appropriate special education services” for their children.
Kathy joined the staff of the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy (the “Moran Center”) in the fall of 2010, subsequent to serving as Associate General Counsel for the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB). Although she is the newest staff member at the Moran Center, she has many years of experience in the field of law, particularly in employment law, labor relations, arbitration, and other issues within the education system. In her work at the IELRB, Kathy handled labor relations issues in the State of Illinois public school system. Prior to joining the IELRB in 1996, Kathy practiced labor and employment law at the Chicago law firm of Vedder Price Kaufman and Kammholz. She has also served as Associate Director of Career Resources at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, as well as a management consultant to General Motors in Detroit, Michigan. Kathy attended the University of Michigan for her undergraduate degree, receiving a Bachelors of Business Administration in 1987. She obtained her J.D. in 1994 from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
In Kathy’s view, the purpose of her job is to provide “assistance navigating the special education system” for parents of students with a need or potential need for special education services. That goal sometimes requires Kathy to take on very active roles, like accompanying parents to Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and resolving disputes between parents and their children’s schools. When appropriate, however, she takes a more educational role, providing parents with information and legal advice, not direct representation. “What we’re trying to do,” Kathy said, “is educate parents early on so that they’re prepared to advocate for their children throughout their school years”. Kathy emphasizes that special education is all about doing what is appropriate for each individual student in his or her unique situation. “The whole basis of special education law,” she explains, ” is that everyone gets individualized support, (so I) appreciate the differences that my clients have and use those to help establish an IEP that is appropriate for them as an individual”. When the Moran Center cannot provide a service that is necessary and appropriate for one of Kathy’s client, she makes referrals to other service providers, such as local Evanston agencies Y.O.U., PEER Services, and the Center for Independent Futures (CIF), in order to fully support the client and his or her family.
Kathy’s talent for her job is unmistakable. She is dedicated to achieving optimal case outcomes, yet remains patient and diplomatic in dealings with clients, colleagues, and school administrators, alike. This approach is helpful in special education law, where non-adversarial communication and negotiation can produce the best results, and litigation is often a last resort.
Her job does not come without challenges, though. Like most Moran Center clientele, Kathy’s clients face myriad difficulties in their lives, like poverty, substance abuse issues, and problematic family dynamics – challenges that lie beyond school districts’ jurisdictions. Still, she and other Moran Center staff do their best to holistically address clients’ needs internally through counseling, case management, and crisis intervention, in addition to partnering with other social service agencies to coordinate services. When successful, these efforts to help clients to overcome really tough situations can be incredibly rewarding. Kathy talks about successes in crisis interventions as her proudest moments thus far at the Moran Center. “There have been several clients who were in crisis,” she remarks, “and we helped them transition to a place where they could be successful.”
In her life outside of the Moran Center, Kathy has been an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and served as a volunteer mediator for the Chicago-based Center for Conflict Resolution. She has also been active in the Women’s Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association, and Moms of Multiples, a support group for women with multiple children (twins, triplets, etc.) In fact, she originally heard about the Moran Center (indirectly) because of her association with Moms of Multiples! She met friend and current colleague, Senior Staff Attorney Andrea Lubelfeld, through Moms with Multiples over ten years ago when their children were little – they are both proud parents of twins! Kathy lives in Evanston with her husband and two boys, who are now 12. She enjoys gardening and is a self-professed HGTV addict.