March 14, 2014

New Attorney Making a Difference

by Dianna Parker Howie, LASC

Hours after his swearing-in ceremony on November 4, 2013, Bricker & Eckler associate Dylan Borchers appeared in Bellefontaine Municipal Court. This was anything but a slam dunk case: Dylan was representing a homeless woman fighting to have her criminal record sealed.

The client, we will call “Stephanie” for the purpose of sharing her story publicly, had been wrongfully named as a criminal defendant in 2010 when a warrant was issued because the person arrested gave her name. Once the police realized the wrongful identity, the warrant was dismissed. Several years passed without incident when the warrant suddenly appeared on Stephanie’s criminal record. Her employer, having conducted a random criminal records search, saw that she had a record and fired her. She struggled to obtain employment but continued to be dismissed from various part-time positions because of her “criminal” background. Responsible for four small children and unable to find permanent work, Stephanie temporarily sought shelter at the YWCA Family Center. While there, she met Dylan at a brief advice legal clinic co-sponsored by the YWCA and LASC. Recognizing the unfairness of Stephanie’s predicament and her struggle for stability, Dylan agreed to assist her with sealing her record.

With assistance from Dylan, Stephanie completed and filed an expungement affidavit, but the City prosecutor objected to the sealing of her record. Dylan researched expungement cases and amassed a number of good precedents in her favor. When the prosecutor sought proof of Stephanie’s “rehabilitation,” Dylan interviewed several character witnesses at their homes and prepared their sworn statements.

At the hearing, Dylan argued both in chambers and on the record that the expungement should be granted. In addition to the facts argued from the police arrest records and the law, he presented the statements of the character witnesses. Ultimately he successfully convinced the court that the expungement should be granted.

Stephanie was ecstatic. This result meant that she could accept a new position that had been contingent on the expungement and that her ability to secure future employment would not be met with the same challenges. Moreover, with the new job, Stephanie was able to transition her family out of homelessness.

Dylan’s story is one of many that show how enthusiastic and empathetic new lawyers can have a great impact on the lives of low-income families. He is fortunate to have the support of a law firm that places a strong emphasis on volunteerism, but his story should resonate with anyone who feels that lack of experience impedes pro bono participation. In fact, the reality is that pro bono work can offer new advocates the ability to litigate on behalf of clients with debilitating legal issues with the training, support, and malpractice coverage of LASC. We hope Dylan’s story will serve as an inspiration to others who may be hesitant to reach out.

For more information on the volunteer opportunities available through LASC, check out our website: www.columbuslegalaid.org/index.php/probono.

Dylan Borchers