A team of Latham & Watkins attorneys including associates Vanessa Reid and Evangeline Burbidge, partner Tim Crudo, and former Latham lawyers, Laura Vartain Horn and Darius Ogloza, with assistance from Susan Hope, successfully had a Second Chance pro bono client’s 2009 arrest reclassified as a detention, which will increase his employment opportunities and allow him to pass background checks for his field.
The Latham team filed a petition to seal the arrest record on the basis of factual innocence. They successfully filed and argued a motion for discovery, filed a Reply brief, and prepared the client to testify. Vanessa Reid and Evangeline Burbidge represented the client at a June 14 hearing at which the client testified. Vanessa Reid conducted a direct examination and gave closing arguments, at the close of which the Assistant District Attorney agreed to reclassify the arrest as a detention. “This matter provided us with a real opportunity to make a difference for a client in need,” said Ms. Reid.
The client’s case presented a distinct set of challenges: the evidentiary burden to seal his prior arrest was extraordinarily high and required proof of factual innocence of the crime for which he was arrested, yet the record was limited. “We prepared this case as we would any other,” said Evangeline Burbidge. “We worked with the client over several months to prepare for his direct examination, negotiated with a well-informed and reasonable Assistant District Attorney, and wrote and argued a number of discovery motions. By June, we were ready for trial and grateful that the judge kept an open mind and considered the merits of the client’s case.” “Overall,” added Ms. Reid on behalf of the team, “it was incredibly rewarding to help this client clear his name and move forward.” The client is currently interviewing for a job with an insurance company and should now be able to pass the required background check.
The Lawyers’ Committee’s Second Chance Legal Clinic exists to help clients overcome barriers to employment and housing due to past arrest and conviction records. The client came to the Second Chance Legal Clinic in 2011, and the Latham team took on the case with the support and assistance from Lawyers’ Committee staff. The team achieved a result that exemplifies exactly what the Second Chance Legal Clinic seeks to do for our clients. “We are extremely grateful to Latham & Watkins for this extraordinary win,” says Kimberly Thomas Rapp, Lawyers’ Committee Executive Director. “Petitions on the basis of factual innocence are notoriously difficult to win. Vanessa and her team employed a full array of legal skills over the course of this case, advocating creatively and zealously for the client and breaking new ground in terms of advocacy strategy for this type of petition. Because of our partnership, this client’s ability to secure employment and be a productive citizen has improved exponentially.”