Mass expungement effort supported by officials, organizations, community activists

Last updated on October 1st, 2015 at 10:37 am

Last week Daniel A. Horwitz, attorney, with the support of County District Attorney Glenn Funk and Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry, filed a motion to have more than 100,000 Nashvillians’ criminal records expunged. In accordance with Tennessee law, anyone whose case does not result in a conviction is entitled to have his or her records expunged free of charge if they file a petition for expungement with the Clerk’s office. However, many who are eligible do not do so, causing undue hardship for individuals not convicted of a crime.

Following the historic filing, the following officials, organizations and community activists across Nashville have proclaimed their support for the effort. Many more are expected to announce their support in the coming days and weeks.

“No individual should be unfairly penalized simply because they didn’t have the time, resources, or understanding of the law to have a charge expunged from their record,” said Mayor-Elect Megan Barry.

“I look forward to working with our criminal justice community to ensure this mass expungement
program is implemented as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

“Efforts like this help Tennesseans who want to buy a house, get a job or just get on with their lives,” said state Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville). “We all benefit when impediments to the American Dream are removed.”

“Our society gains a direct benefit when people are given a chance to improve their lives,” said state Rep. Harold M. Love Jr. (D-Nashville). “This is one such opportunity and I am glad to lend my support to the effort.”

“Every week citizens call me to help with expungements because of the horrible effect some ancient arrest has on their life,” said David Raybin, attorney for Hollins, Raybin & Weissman, P.C. “This class action will help thousands of citizens. I applaud the joint efforts of the court, the clerk’s office, the prosecutor and the private bar in making this a reality.”

“Justice demands this momentous undertaking that will remove an undue stain on individuals’ records and help ensure their equal opportunity for employment,” said state Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville).

“The Martha O’Bryan Center joins in support of the recent class action suit which seeks to expedite without fees or charges the expungement process in Davidson County,” according to the Board of Directors of the Martha O’Bryan Center. “As an anti-poverty social services and education non-profit, we have seen many times when an arrest or charge, with no conviction, has prevented or compromised a citizen’s ability to gain employment. This is a policy change that will positivity impact employability, housing availability, and improved HR practices in our city.”

“We support the class action suit filed to automate and simplify the expungement process in Davidson County,” according to A Voice for the Reduction of Poverty. “We applaud and join in approval with Davidson County District Attorney, Glenn Funk and the Clerk of Courts, Howard Gentry, of this effort to make our county and court system more fair and equitable to all people regardless of economic status.”

“Consequences for criminal activity should be reserved for those who are guilty,” said District Attorney Glenn Funk.

“This will help put many Nashvillians back to work, add greatly to our economy and restore dignity to many who were hanging in the balance,” said Metro Council Member At-Large Erica Gilmore. “I wholeheartedly support this effort.”

“When a system has such a huge number of people caught in the backlog, it’s time to re-examine the system,” said Metro Council Member Fabian Bedne. “People who have not yet had their records expunged can’t fully contribute to society. Additionally, at a time when Nashville is enjoying unprecedented growth, we need to do what we can to maintain high levels of employment in order to lower costs and tame inflation. This is the right thing to do from both a human and a business perspective.”

“This is a perfect example of a situation where what seems like a simple bureaucratic measure can have a lasting negative impact on the life of someone who has had an encounter with the justice system. The impact of this simple effort should offer some additional procedural justice to a number of Nashvillians, and I’m glad to see it being supported by the administrators of our justice system,” said Metro Council Member Freddie O’Connell.

“Not only are so many unaware of expungement of dismissed criminal charges as a fundamental right, the inadvertent cost and time of the expungement process is an injustice to citizens everywhere,” said Jonathan Adair, Community & Civic Engagement chair, Urban League Young Professionals of Middle Tennessee. “For years, dismissed criminal charges and failed convictions have prevented individual progress while the criminal justice system blatantly neglects to acknowledge such a right.”

“Access to justice is denied to an entire group of people when the process of getting a dismissed criminal charge removed from their record is so complicated and expensive that it’s out of their reach,” said Judge Carol Soloman.

“We at Project Return applaud the class action approach to expungements. Every day, people are walking out of prison and returning to our community, and their successful reentry is important to all of us. They face many challenges, as they strive, against the odds, to gain employment and housing. Even though they’ve done their time and paid their debt to society, the records of their criminal history make this quest for a job and a place to live extremely difficult. To chip away at these challenges by bringing Tennessee’s expungement law to bear is a benefit to them, and to all of us. Every properly expunge-able charge that can be taken off of a person’s record, the better off that person is as he or she strives to begin again,” said Bettie Kirkland, executive director, Project Return.

“This will truly help our justice system define that you are innocent until proven guilty,” said John Little III, managing partner, Strategy Redefined. “This will help thousands of Nashvillians not have to face persecution in our job market, after wrongful prosecution.”

“The opportunity to achieve a second chance in our country is a fundamental value we all hold dear,” said Ashford Hughes, Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH).

“This second chance will give these individuals an equal opportunity to further partake in the economic, social and family growth that we see happening throughout Nashville today.”