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October 14, 2015 – Karen Henry, counsel in the media and litigation practice groups of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, was honored last night by the city council of Compton, Calif., for her work organizing two expungement clinics that helped dozens of residents remove barriers to employment.

Ms. Henry, a native of Compton, was recognized by the mayor and councilmembers, along with the Crossroads United Methodist Church, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Southwestern Law School, who were all key participants in making the clinics a success.

In a formal letter, Compton’s mayor, the Honorable Aja Brown, thanked Ms. Henry “for the compassion you have for our community and your vision to assist our residents.” She added: “It was evident that you were truly led by love to touch the lives of our community through service.”

“The ability to secure and maintain employment is a critical aspect of an ex-offender’s successful reintegration into society,” said Ms. Henry. “Yet Americans with criminal records encounter significant legal and social barriers that thwart their job searches and block employment opportunities. I was very pleased to work with the city and our other partners in this effort to improve those opportunities and give dozens of ex-offenders the chance to support themselves and their families.”

Many states, including California, have implemented policies that help qualified people with criminal records to compete more fairly in the job market. Among these policies is the availability of an expungement, which allows an ex-offender who meets certain conditions to open his or her criminal case, set aside the conviction, and dismiss the case. After an expungement is obtained, the person’s record no longer shows the conviction, and he or she can lawfully answer “no” on a private employer’s job application when asked whether he or she has been convicted of a crime.

Understanding the critical role expungements can play in helping ex-offenders secure employment, Ms. Henry guided and led the creation of the Fresh Start Expungement Clinic, which was held at the Crossroads church on two consecutive Saturdays in August. Student volunteers from Ms. Henry’s alma mater, Southwestern Law School, were recruited to work at the clinic, with training and oversight provided by volunteer lawyers from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. The church and the city of Compton provided support and food. Nearly 100 individual petitions were handled at the event, with more than two dozen other people receiving counseling.

"This means so much for the participants," says Ms. Henry. “To not have to be identified as a criminal marks an end to a difficult period in their life, and permits them to rejoin society. There is a large segment of the population who are employable and eligible for expungement. I am so proud of all the organizations that came together to provide this incredibly important service.”

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