PRO BONO PORTRAIT | Persistence Pays Off as Karen Piper Achieves Expungement for Pro Bono Client Despite Procedural Obstacles
Due to a myriad of obstacles, Mr. B almost didn’t get his expungement. But Karen Piper worked through all the procedural difficulties and, although it took two years, won an expungement for her client.
In 2011, Mr. B contacted Legal Aid and Defender Association (LADA), who assisted him in filing an application to set aside his conviction in the Oakland County Circuit Court. Mr. B hoped to have expunged an embezzlement conviction from 2003. Mr. B had no subsequent offenses, but found it difficult to obtain employment with the offense on his record. Mr. B’s application was scheduled for hearing on September 14, 2011, but due to factors beyond his control, Mr. B failed to attend the hearing. As a result, the following day, the judge denied Mr. B’s application because his application failed to “demonstrate or even allege that his circumstances and behavior since the Defendant’s conviction warrant[ed] the setting aside of the conviction and that such relief would be consistent with the public welfare.” The application was denied without prejudice.
Karen received the case in November of 2011. It took months for Mr. B to provide Karen with the supporting documentation to demonstrate that he met the statutory standard for relief. Eventually, though, he provided Karen with documentation showing that he had made restitution, had been taking care of his family (wife and two children), doing volunteer work at his church and his children’s school, and performing handyman jobs, but that his conviction was an impediment to his getting a better job. He brought Karen seven letters of support from his pastor, his children’s teacher, a company for whom he provides handyman services, and others.
Then, in April 2012, Karen broke her ankle and took a leave from work. Mr. B was scheduled to return to LADA to re-file, but had to cancel the appointment due to a death in his family. Unfortunately, Mr. B’s life got busy, and he dropped out of communication for a while. Finally, he resurfaced again in late fall 2012. By that time, Karen had to prepare updated forms and re-obtain fingerprints, a criminal record check, and other required items. Finally, in February 2013, Karen re-filed the application to set aside conviction. This time, the application included plenty of supporting documentation. After nearly two years, Mr. B finally got his hearing in April 2013. Not only did the judge grant the expungement, he seemed pleased to do so. This case demonstrates, yet again, that persistence pays off. Congratulations to Karen on yet another expungement victory!