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Omaha Attorneys Help People Seeking Fresh Start to ‘Set Aside' Past Criminal Records

 
July 10, 2019
 
Client Success

“It is a great way to spend a Saturday morning,” Jensen said. “We can help a lot of people, yet not have any ongoing case management. We will continue working with Legal Aid of Nebraska in the future, as long as they’ll have us.”

Everyone has made decisions they regret. When it comes to the criminal justice system, those poor decisions become part of a convict’s record for life and can have a strong impact on a person’s future for jobs, education and program eligibility. 

But for those who are trying to get their life back on track, a “set-aside” program might be just the answer. Husch Blackwell’s Omaha attorneys spent a recent Saturday at a pro bono clinic helping more than 80 people take that first step toward cleaning up their record.  

The program in Nebraska allows individuals to get their criminal conviction “set aside” – which means the judge who did the sentencing now believes the crime should no longer be held against them. The conviction is not removed from their record, but the set-aside is attached, and by order of the judge, it nullifies all of the consequences of the crime. 

“I worked with a young lady who is in her last year of nursing school, and she’s on the Dean’s List, but she has two shoplifting convictions from her early twenties,” said Marnie Jensen, Omaha Office Managing Partner. “She knew her record would come up as she went into the job market, and it was really weighing on her. Now she has a signed order from the judge – who originally sentenced her – implementing this set-aside, in effect saying it should not be held against her. That’s a giant relief.”

Husch Blackwell is working with the Legal Aid of Nebraska on the program. Legal Aid screens all of the candidates ahead of time so only those who are eligible are part of the clinic. “We don’t make any determinations within the criminal justice system,” Jensen said. “Our purpose at the clinic is to help each eligible person fill out the form. They have to state on the form why they believe they should be granted the set-aside, and we help provide that rationale after an interview with the person.”

This is one place where the justice system moves quite swiftly. The local prosecutor is at the clinic and is available to sign off on the form once it is filled out. At that point, all clients have to do is mail or drop off the documents to the courts. 

“This really is a fun opportunity,” Jensen said. “We get to help people, and we rarely have an opportunity in our normal legal work to get the immediate gratification of seeing something completed so quickly.”

She also said it is a good team-building opportunity and a chance for both litigation and transactional attorneys to work side-by-side. Besides Jensen, participating attorneys included Quinn Eaton, Kamron Hasan, Brent Meyer, Tannaz Kouhpainezhad and Grant Leach. 

Eaton helped set up the first set-aside clinic in 2018 and found satisfaction in helping in this year’s clinic. 

“I assisted one person who wanted to join the military,” Eaton said. “Her parents had both been in the military, and she wanted to serve her country. However, she had a misdemeanor shoplifting conviction, and her military recruiter said she needed to get that set aside. It was good to be able to provide some help.”

“It is a great way to spend a Saturday morning,” Jensen said. “We can help a lot of people, yet not have any ongoing case management. We will continue working with Legal Aid of Nebraska in the future, as long as they’ll have us.”

Professionals:

Marnie A. Jensen

Office Managing Partner

Quinn R. Eaton

Associate

Kamron T. Hasan

Associate

Brent A. Meyer

Partner

Grant D. Leach

Partner