By Clint Confehr
EAST NASHVILLE, TN — People who are formerly incarcerated might get their court records erased Saturday at the Justice For All program in the Limelight Events Center on Woodland Avenue.
“We got all kind of folks together for this; community activists, lawyers, political folk. And the criminal court clerk’s office has agreed to come out,” says community activist Marilyn Brown of Haynes Estates. “They’re bringing printers and they’ll be able to expunge on the spot.”
They’ve done it before, but it’s important to preregister by calling Brown at (615) 364-0258, or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We successfully expunged 200 records,” state Rep. Brenda Gilmore said of the first Justice For All program Dec. 18 at the Limelight venue. “This time, we will have computers to check to see if people have been purged from the voter records so they can be restored and then have others’s records expunged.”
Registered voters are categorized as active and inactive. If someone hasn’t cast a ballot during two consecutive major elections, then their names can be removed — purged — from the list of people eligible to vote. Furthermore, when convicted of crimes, defendants can have their citizen rights revoked. They can’t vote, or run for political office.
“We’re also doing voter registration and a job fair” at the Justice For All Weekend, 9 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Limelight Events Center, 201 Woodland Ave., Gilmore said. “We also will have employers who are felon-friendly to people who have served their time and want to get their lives back together and live a productive life.”
Dennis “DJ” Jones, proprietor of the Limelight, has made the building available at no cost to the Justice For All programs. As the venue business owner, Jones rents 14,000 square feet with tables, chairs and a stage for all kinds of events.
“It’s an event space. It’s not a club,” Jones said. “In the ’60s and ’70s it was a car dealership and then a furniture store.”
Community activist Marilyn Brown of Haynes Estates helped organize the program because; “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
She’s an executive board member of the Tennessee NAACP Conference and says Justice For All “is going to honor Jones for the work he’s done in the community.”
Other notables who’ve helped include: Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry, NAACP Nashville Branch Vice President Sheryl Allen, attorneys Joy Kimbrough, Daniel Horowitz and Tillman Payne.
“This is one of several efforts to mobilize our community to make a difference at the ballot box,” says Tallulah Crawley-Shinault, PhD, of the Annie F. Crawley Educational Research and Policy Center. “It is critical that we are prepared to vote in this and all upcoming elections.”
“We’re really encouraging people to vote in the May election and the one in August,” Gilmore said. “Tennessee was 27th (of states’ voter turnout) in 2008. Since that time, we’ve had a number of people who came off the voter registration rolls because of these laws that depress the vote [including] women, people who are disabled and minorities.”
Tennessee’s voter turnout last year was ranked 50th in the nation; not last because Washington, D.C. was included. Texas was last in voter turnout.
“We’re asking people to pre-register” for the Justice For All program on Saturday morning, Feb. 24, Gilmore said, encouraging people to call Marilyn Brown at (615) 364-0258. “We’ll have some attorneys there and some judges and the criminal clerk office.”
The volunteers are also holding a job fair and will help people toward obtaining a drivers license, an employability certificate and provide record expungement information.
A state law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam last year reduced the cost of expungement. Crimes eligible are most misdemeanors and some Class E felonies, including forgery, theft, vandalism and fraudulent insurance claims(s), among others.
Daniel A. Horwitz, a constitutional lawyer practicing in Nashville, will reportedly help at the Justice For All program. Horwitz handles all forms of criminal record expungement in Tennessee. He was the first attorney in Tennessee to successfully expunge multiple convictions and the first attorney to obtain a partial expungement.