The Boston Bar Association is thrilled to announce the launch of a monthly CORI Sealing Clinic, a first-of-its kind project that will assist low-income clients in asking courts to seal their criminal records with the help of volunteer attorneys.
A CORI (short for Criminal Offender Record Information) report is the official log of any charges brought against someone by the Commonwealth. The CORI Act attempts to balance the public interest in having access to criminal records against the interest of personal privacy. Because a prior criminal record can be used by employers and landlords to deprive deserving people of employment, housing, and educational opportunities, Massachusetts law permits those individuals to have their records “sealed” from public view by meeting certain legal requirements. The CORI Sealing Clinic will help those who lack the knowledge or expertise to undertake this process or cannot afford an attorney to help.
Immediate past BBA President Mark Smith, a partner at Laredo & Smith, made criminal justice reform one of the focal points of his tenure, and helmed the BBA during the release of its comprehensive criminal justice reform report, No Time to Wait, last year. Many of the report’s recommendations were eventually signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker earlier this year, including a decrease in the time individuals must wait before having certain records administratively sealed-from five years to three years for misdemeanors and ten years to seven years for felonies.
“This clinic stems from a belief in second chances. It is necessary to give those with a criminal record a meaningful chance to rebuild their lives, and connecting those individuals with attorneys who can help them ask a court to seal their records is extremely important,” Smith said.
This clinic, to be held at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston beginning in February, will assist low-income clients with retrieving copies of their CORI reports and administratively sealing their CORI when eligible.
“This project follows in the BBA’s long tradition of working to ensure that income is not a barrier to legal assistance, and that those who interact with the criminal justice system are able to access their rights,” BBA President Jon Albano, a partner at Morgan Lewis, said.
This project was made possible through collaboration with the private bar, legal services agencies, law schools and the court system. The BBA is grateful for the support of sponsor firms Sullivan & Worcester LLP and Pepper Hamilton LLP , who have committed to staffing the clinic with volunteer attorneys during its pilot phase. The launch of this clinic would also not be possible without the expertise of Greater Boston Legal Services’ CORI & Re-Entry Project Director Pauline Quirion and New England Law Center for Law and Social Responsibility Director David Siegel. They have used their years of experience running similar initiatives to assist the BBA in designing its clinic and will provide trainings and guidance for participating attorneys.
We are additionally grateful to Boston Municipal Court Chief Justice Roberto Ronquillo, who has lent his strong support to the BBA’s CORI Sealing Clinic. The BBA is firmly committed to facilitating the robust engagement of the private bar in pro bono work, and we appreciate all our partners in that effort.
A volunteer training for the clinic is scheduled for Tuesday, January 29th from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM at the Boston Bar Association. If you’re interested in becoming involved with the clinic and would like to attend the training, please reach out to Cassandra Shavney at firstname.lastname@example.org
The BBA’s CORI Sealing Clinic will be on the 2nd floor of the Boston Municipal Court, Central Division, in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, at 24 New Chardon St. in downtown Boston. Sessions will take place in the morning on the first Wednesday of each month, beginning February 6, 2019.