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Among those who helped at the July 17 seal/expunge clinic were (not pictured in order) Jack Johnson, Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition Inc.’s Responsible Fatherhood Program; state Rep. Mia Jones; Milan Thompson, Jones’ executive assistant; Devin Coleman, Redemption Club of the Florida New Majority;  Tracie Davis, deputy supervisor of elections; Sylvester Thomas and Curtis James Jr., both of New York Life Insurance; Chardea Murray, Three Rivers LITC director and pro bono coordinator; and LaVerne Andreasen, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

Pro bono spotlight: Project R to help felons get civil rights returned

By Chardea Murray, Three Rivers Legal Services Pro Bono Coordinator

The right to vote, the right to bear arms and the right to serve on a jury are precious civil liberties that the average person fails to appreciate.

While a number of citizens take these rights for granted, some individuals are estopped from exercising these liberties.

In Florida, the government strips convicted felons of essential civil rights until the Board of Executive Clemency restores these liberties.

As a swing-state in the past presidential elections and due to backlash surrounding the verdicts in recent jury trials, Florida is a crucial state where the ability to exercise civil rights is vital.

Floridians also struggle with clearing their names after being charged with a crime due to the complexity of the sealing and expungement process.

The current process hinders past offenders from moving on with their lives and becoming productive, successful contributors to society.

To help these citizens overcome these barriers to productivity, Three Rivers Legal Services Inc. is partnering with the D.W. Perkins Bar Association Inc. and various pro bono attorneys to implement “Project R: Restoring Rights, Repairing Records, and Rebuilding Hope.”

Restoring rights

To assist past convicted felons with restoring their civil rights, Three Rivers and volunteer attorneys from the D.W. Perkins Bar Association Inc. have joined forces to host a series of restoration of civil rights workshops.

The workshops have been scheduled quarterly on a Thursday from 6:15-7:15 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Historic Springfield Community Learning Center, 1601 N. Main St.

The next workshops will be Thursday and Nov. 20. Volunteer attorney Guy Victor Murray, of Guy Victor Murray, P.A., served as a presenter at the Feb. 20 kick-off workshop.

Repairing records

Momentary lapses in judgment can haunt a person for the rest of his or her life, creating hardships and obstacles as past offenders strive to start fresh and better their futures.

Three Rivers is teaming up with local pro bono attorneys to host a series of sealing and expungement clinics to help community members repair their records.

The clinics also are scheduled to occur quarterly on a Thursday from 6:15-7:15 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Historic Springfield Community Learning Center, 1601 N. Main St. The final clinic for 2014 is Oct. 16. Pro bono attorney Reganel J. Reeves, of the Justice League Law Group, volunteered to host the first clinic.

Rebuilding Hope

“Project R” is a new Three Rivers initiative that joins the quarterly calendar with The Jacksonville Bar Association and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s “Ask-A-Lawyer” events.

Together, Three Rivers and JALA have provided the legal community with a variety of pro bono opportunities to allow private attorneys to give back.

We invite all pro bono attorneys to join the cause as we diligently strive to rebuild hope in the community.

To get involved with “Project R,” contact Three Rivers Pro Bono Coordinator Chardea Murray at chardea.murray@trls.org.

Email Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Coordinator Kathy Para at kathy.Para@jaxlegalaid.org to participate in “Ask-A-Lawyer.”

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