KU Law School Holds Radiation Clinic in Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. – University of Kansas law students gain real-world experience, helping clients trying to make a fresh start.

KU Law School, the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, and the Lawrence Public Library have teamed up to help expunge nonviolent records from the Erasure Clinic.

The library’s Clean Slate Criminal Records Expungement Clinic is giving residents of Lawrence and Douglas County a second chance. It also gives University of Kansas law students one of their first shots with a client.

“This is the first time we’ve met a variety of people face to face,” said Madeline Shriver.

She is a third-year law student at KU and a legal intern at the Douglas County Legal Aid Clinic. They provide free legal representation — working with people in the community who have criminal records, have been held accountable, and now want them expunged under Kansas law.

“It can very easily change their lives,” Shriver said. “It takes about a month for it to be wiped from their record and after that they can immediately start applying for housing and jobs and not have to check that mark until they have a felony conviction.”

The clinic accepts clients whose income does not exceed 250% of the poverty line.

Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez is partnering with KU Law School to make this happen.

“It’s basically about erasing a criminal past, and that feels really, really good,” Valdez said.

She is a former KU law student and professor. Valdez taught at the university for 21 years.

The DA said this clinic opened the door for people to regain their dignity – the same criminal justice system that held them accountable, is now giving them another chance.

“We want people to understand that once they’ve had their day, they’ve been responsible, we want to give them a clean slate,” Valdez said. “So they can have job opportunities, housing opportunities – all those things that reintegrate them into our community where they belong.”

Each year, they serve 40-50 people with actual cases filed in district or city courts.

Melanie Daily is the director of the legal aid clinic. She said it’s a win-win situation for the community and the students.

“For students, this is a huge shift because they are now focused on community safety and re-engaging people in society,” Daily said. “Instead of just at the worst time, when they’ve done something wrong, and they have to bring justice for it.”

The law students will appear before a judge in November. The next radiation clinic is scheduled for February.

Jon J. Epps