Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s leading mass tort and consumer protection law firms, is pleased to announce more than 400 cases have been expunged/sealed in Madison County as a result of its 2018 Second Chance Saturday event. The results were announced during a special court date Feb. 26.
Held Aug. 25, 2018 at the Granite City Township Building, the event enabled 148 defendants to start the process of removing past minor offenses, misdemeanors, and other nonviolent crimes from their criminal records. As of February, 401 of the 765 cases filed as a result of the event have been expunged/sealed, with the remainder either pending or withdrawn.
Second Chance Saturday began in 2016 and was previously known as Expungement Day. Since then, the firm has sponsored Second Chance Saturday events in Venice (2017) and Granite City (2018), with volunteer attorneys from Simmons Hanly Conroy and the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation expediting an expungement process that can take four to six months through normal channels.
“Second Chance Saturday has become an important part of our firm’s mission,” said shareholder Ted Gianaris, who helped conceive the program in 2016. “People make minor mistakes, but that doesn’t mean those mistakes should keep you from re-entering the workforce and earning a living for your family. They shouldn’t impede you from bettering yourself and your life. Everyone deserves a second chance, and we are incredibly proud to help provide that.”
During the 2018 event, one young couple was especially grateful to receive their second chance. The husband sought to expunge a gun possession charge from when he was a teenager, while the wife had been charged with battery/assault right out of high school.
“I’m now the mother of three children. I made my mistakes when I was practically still a child myself,” she said. “I don’t want those mistakes to affect my children or their futures. They don’t deserve that. Being able to give them and our family a clean slate means everything.”
Another applicant attended the event to address a traffic violation for lack of insurance. He’d been unable to pay the $500 fee for five years, had his license suspended, and was unable to drive to work as a result.
“I was constantly worried about going to jail over a traffic violation,” he said. “This takes such a weight off of my mind and my heart.”
Legal services were offered free of charge at the event. Volunteer attorneys reviewed applicants’ paperwork, ensured they were eligible to participate, answered any questions, then worked to complete the petition for expungement/sealing. County agencies in attendance assisted in expediting the expungement/sealing processes by allowing participants to file all necessary paperwork at once, including filing with the Circuit Clerk on-site. Once petitions were filed, copies were sent to relevant agencies, which had up to 60 days to respond or object. Depending upon whether there were objections, a judge may have granted the petition at that point, or a hearing may have been scheduled for participants to state their claims. Some cases are still pending hearings and continuances.
In addition to Simmons Hanly Conroy, Second Chance Saturday was made possible by the Madison County Third Judicial Circuit Court, Madison County Sheriff’s Department, Circuit Clerk of Madison County, Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office, City of Granite City, and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. Additional sponsors include Illinois State Rep. Jay Hoffman, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, the Madison County Regional Superintendent’s Office, the Madison County Public Defender’s Office, the Madison County Clerk’s Office, Madison County Development Co., the Madison County Probation Department, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC), the Granite City Police Department, the Illinois State Police, the Pontoon Beach Police Department, Madison County Leadership Council, Granite City Citizen’s Advisory Committee, NAACP (Madison-Venice, Alton, Edwardsville), Neighborhood Law Office Catholic Urban Programs, Granite City Six Mile Library, RICOH Copiers, HireLevel and Midwest Golf Carts.
The event also included activities for children, employment assistance and voter registration services. The 2019 Second Chance Saturday will take place on Sept. 14. Visit the event’s webpage at www.simmonsfirm.com/2ndchance for updates as they become available.
To view photos from last year’s event, visit https://bit.ly/2WC0vpv.