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CLS Receives NLADA Innovations in Equal Justice Award


CLS Receives NLADA Innovations in Equal Justice Award

Community Legal Services (CLS) is proud to announce that it is the 2019 recipient of the NLADA Innovations in Equal Justice Award, from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA). The award was presented at the annual NLADA/American Bar Association Equal Justice Conference on May 10, 2019 in Louisville, KY.

The NLADA Innovations in Equal Justice Award is presented annually to an individual or group who has made outstanding contributions to creativity and innovation in the delivery of legal services to individuals who are living in poverty. 

CLS is being recognized for its contributions to and innovations in advancing second chances for individuals with criminal records, including utilizing technology and working in coalitions.  This work has been led by CLS’s Employment Unit and Managing Attorney Sharon Dietrich.  In particular, CLS is being recognized for its work in conceiving of and advocating for Pennsylvania’s new Clean Slate law, which will automatically seal certain old and minor criminal records. This is a first-in-the-nation program.

“For years, the CLS team has found innovative ways to secure economic security and mobility for people with criminal records, utilizing every tool at their disposal, from harnessing technology to forging new partnerships. Not only has CLS been instrumental in Pennsylvania, including the recent passage and now implementation of Clean Slate, they are recognized as the national experts leading this work across the country. NLADA is honored to present CLS with the prestigious Innovations in Equal Justice Award, and to work side-by-side to advance our shared values of equal access to justice,” said Don Saunders, Sr. VP for Policy at NLADA

Said CLS Executive Director Debby Freedman, “We are thrilled to be recognized by NLADA, a leader in securing justice and to be recognized by them is a true honor.  I am also proud of CLS’s work representing clients, listening to and working with our community to fight for change, and thinking creatively about how to tackle the tough challenges that our clients face.”

Clean Slate is expected to automatically seal over 30 million criminal charges in Pennsylvania and the Employment Unit at CLS is hard at work supporting other states in implementing this model.