Sharon Dietrich has been an attorney with the Employment Unit of Community Legal Services, Philadelphia, since 1987. She became CLS’ Managing Attorney for Public Benefits and Employment in 1997, and its Litigation Director in 2014. Ms. Dietrich represents low-income Philadelphians in employment matters, with the goals of removing employment barriers, preserving jobs, and getting access to employment-related income.
A focus of Ms. Dietrich’s work has been issues involving the employment of people with criminal records. These activities include: (1) representing hundreds of people who have been denied employment because of their criminal records; (2) leading CLS’s legislative advocacy on Pennsylvania’s innovative Clean Slate law (Act 56) to seal minor criminal cases through automation; (3) leading CLS’s work in the National Record Clearing Project, to provide technical assistance nationwide for provision of expungement and sealing representation.
Ms. Dietrich also has led CLS’s work on unemployment benefits over the past 35 years. She is currently working on advocacy to restore the administration of the program since it has been battered by the pandemic and the state’s implementation of new public-facing software.
Prior to her employment with CLS, Ms. Dietrich served as law clerk for Ann Aldrich, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio. From 1994 through 2004, she also worked as a contract attorney with the National Employment Law Project in New York. NELP provides assistance to legal services programs, unions and community based organizations nationwide and promotes a national advocacy agenda on issues related to criminal records, unemployment compensation, and others.
Honors & Publications
Special Achievement Award, Pennsylvania Bar Association (2019)
Innovations in Equal Justice Award, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, (2019)
Outstanding Leadership Award, PLAN (2019)
Louis H. Pollak Public Service Award, University of Pennsylvania Law School (2016)
Distinguished Alumni Award, Albright College (2015)
Pioneer Award, Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union (2011)
Kutak-Dodds Prize, National Legal Aid and Defender Association (2006)
Civil Legal Aid Attorney of the Year, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Legal Services to the Public Committee (2006)
Andrew Hamilton Award, Philadelphia Bar Association, Public Interest Section (2005)
Meritorious Service Award, Pennsylvania Prison Society (2002)
Striving Towards Excellence Award, PLAN (1999)
Pennsylvania “Super Lawyers”, Super Lawyers (2005, 2007, 2008)
Ms. Dietrich has published many works, the most recent concerning Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law. They include: The Left, the Right, and the Football Players: How Clean Slate Automated Sealing was Passed in Pennsylvania (with Rebecca Vallas), and Clean Slate Brings Automated and Expanded Criminal Record Sealing to Pennsylvania, published in the Pennsylvania Bar Assn Quarterly (January 2019).
Ms. Dietrich is a summa cum laude graduate of Albright College and earned her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.