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College of Law volunteers use their legal education for good

October 11, 2013

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law students, alumni, faculty and staff participated in a day of service Saturday, Sept. 28, including an event in the Treme neighborhood, where volunteers assisted more than 500 people seeking to have their criminal records expunged. The New Orleans Advocate reported on the effort.

In addition to the expungement event, College of Law students also participated in community service projects around the city. Students from the Loyola chapters of the Hispanic Law Student Association, National Lawyers Guild and Healthcare Law Alliance cleaned more than 600 water meter doormats for Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which will be resold to help raise funds for the organization. They also beautified the gardens at City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art Sculpture Garden, and assisted staff with organization at Bridge House, a long-term intensive alcohol and drug addiction treatment center. The day concluded with students returning to Loyola College of Law for lunch and a reflection time led by Kurt Bindewald, director of University Ministry.

College of Law alumnae Ameca Reali, J.D. ’11 and Adrienne Wheeler, J.D. ’11 spearheaded the expungement event through an organization they founded to help post-conviction offenders build a better quality of life, the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana. Held at Christian Unity Baptist Church, 200 volunteers—including 80 lawyers—guided people through the complex process of expunging criminal records, excluding violent felonies, sex offenses and crimes involving minors.

Law student and Healthcare Law Alliance member Ranchaela Ward, who assisted in Treme, stresses the importance of not losing sight of the bigger picture for helping these people in need, many who had 20-year-old charges on their record, but no other violations.

“A lot of people who came were just trying to better their chances of getting quality jobs. I know one person noted that McDonald’s wouldn't even hire them because of what they admitted to in their application,” Ward said. “I mean as tough as it is to get a job in today's economy, it is almost impossible to get one with any type of criminal record. It’s important to give people a fair chance and not let past mistakes haunt them for the rest of their lives. If we’re are going to be a community that encourages people to change and better themselves, then it’s only fair that we actually give people the opportunity to do so.”

William P. Quigley, J.D. ’77, professor and director of the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice at Loyola and former Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judge and alumnus Calvin Johnson, J.D. ‘78, volunteered their time at the event. Johnson was the 2009 recipient of the St. Ives Award, the highest honor awarded by the College of Law Alumni Association. Other College of Law faculty that participated included assistant clinical professor Judson Mitchell, J.D., and Loyola’s Adams & Reese Distinguished Professor of Law Bobby Harges, J.D.

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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