Campbell Law School celebrates the 10th anniversary of its move to downtown Raleigh this month.
We take a look at the important work its faculty and students are doing in the community.
Pro Bono Services
Campbell Law students are encouraged to devote 50 hours over the course of their law school careers to doing pro bono work, and, through the school’s student-run Pro Bono Council, students can choose from 13 different projects to work on. From doing casework with the state’s Center for Actual Innocence, to training staff at local restaurants on the laws around service animals, to helping first responders write up wills, students assist local attorneys and organizations with important legal services without payment or class credit, in the spirit of helping others and the community at large. Last month, the council launched the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, where law students assist immigration law attorneys with their work with local immigrant and refugee assistance organizations navigating complex immigration laws. “The legal profession is built around helping people,” says Evin L. Grant, a Campbell alum and the law school’s director of student life and pro bono services. “There are people in the community who don’t have access to the same resources but deserve the same level of care and work everyone else deserves. Pro bono services give people the opportunity to access those resources, to get justice when justice is due.”
Nearly two decades ago, Campbell Law Professor Jon Powell, a criminal defense attorney, was looking for a better way to deal with juvenile offenders that didn’t involve handing them over to the criminal justice system. He found that giving young offenders and their victims space to come together for an open dialogue—where their statements were kept confidential and inadmissible in court—was a better way to repair harm and correct wrongdoing. “My goal was to create a program where a kid would never have to touch the legal system,” says Powell of the method that is now the driving force behind Campbell’s Restorative Justice Clinic. Through the clinic, which Powell oversees, Campbell faculty and students go into Wake County schools and hold mediation sessions with students experiencing interpersonal conflicts who have been referred to them. Third-year law student Nichad Davis calls it the “circle process.” Davis has been working as a mediator, or “circle keeper,” with a group of Knightdale High School students who were identified as having gang affiliations when they were in middle school. “We facilitate dialogue around whatever issue is at hand,” Davis says. “I have the privilege of going into the circle with these young men, doing facilitated dialogue and unpacking different traumas they may have been through at home, addressing some of their behavior and thoughts, giving them a free space to be themselves and be free to communicate about the things they have been through.” Last year, the clinic took on 150 cases in Wake County schools, and has worked on 120 cases so far this year. “We find that most of us have similar kinds of challenges and we want to help them to create empathy and understanding with each other,” says Powell. “That really is the key to resolving conflict.”
Whether it’s due to a bad credit history, homelessness or struggles with addiction, people often need support when they decide to take steps to get back on their feet and want to find work to support themselves and their families. At Campbell’s Blanchard Community Law Clinic, students provide legal services to low income people—referred from local nonprofits, such as the Raleigh Rescue Mission—who may need help repairing their credit, obtaining their driver’s license or having something expunged from their record. Recently, North Carolina changed its law to reduce the wait time for expunctions of misdemeanors from 15 to 10 years, and it did away with the limit on the number of dismissals that can be expunged from a person’s record. Last fall, Campbell’s clinic partnered with the Wake County Bar Association and Wake District Attorney and Clerk of Court for its annual Re-Entry and Expunction Resource Fair for people interested in having their criminal records expunged. Campbell students worked on 40 cases of people who were eligible for record expunction. “The desirable outcome is to remove in accordance with law some criminal charges, or dismiss charges, so they are more employable,” says Ashley H. Campbell, the clinic’s director. “Expanded expunction eligibility is a nonpartisan issue where there is consensus that we want people to be able to be employed, get back into the workforce and support their families. That is our goal, to help support individuals moving forward.”
Neota Logic Criminal Records Expunction App
Campbell offers a class on coding, and its professor, Campbell Law alum Tom Brooke and a creative group of students, developed an app that can screen people for criminal record expunction eligibility in North Carolina. If they’re eligible, the app can also refer users to a lawyer or otherwise help them begin the expunction filing process. Using the Neota Logic software, the app asks users questions to evaluate their eligibility for expunction under state laws. While it isn’t available to the public yet—attorneys are still evaluating whether the app complies with guidelines for practicing law under the North Carolina Bar—students did give it a test run at the Wake Re-Entry and Expunction Resource Fair in October.