By: Amelia Martin Adams
“I believe in justice, equality, and basic human dignity. I believe that every person is more than the worst decision that they ever made. I believe that through compassion, empathy, and real, emotional connection that I will find justice for all of my clients.” Those words should ring true with every lawyer, and they came from Kentucky attorney Brad Clark.
A 2009 graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law, Clark spent his formative years serving as a public defender in Lexington, Kentucky. Clark defended hundreds of clients facing charges from misdemeanors to murders, treating each one with respect as they dealt with some of the worst days of their lives. With his engaging personality, Clark forged relationships with many clients that encouraged him to take action when he learned that the Kentucky Legislature was reforming the Commonwealth’s expungement laws.
Effective in July 2016, KRS 431.078 drastically changed the misdemeanor expungement process. Before its enactment, people could expunge only one misdemeanor case in ten years. Now, they can expunge their entire misdemeanor record if they satisfy a few criteria. Cases that were dismissed with prejudice, ended in acquittal, or involved certain dismissed emergency protective orders, as well as some felony convictions for possession of a controlled substance, are also eligible for expungement under Kentucky law.
A self-taught programmer, Clark created a way to make it easy for people to access the expungement process: a web app called Unconvicted.com. Unconvicted.com explains the process in plain English and guides users through a set of clear questions to determine if they qualify for expungement. If they do, they are offered three categories of low bono service through Clark’s law firm. Services range from document preparation for pro se clients, to full representation, to a new package offering full representation and post-expungement repairs to the client’s online legal reputation. In certain circumstances, Clark Law also provides legal services completely pro bono.
Why do all of this for convicted criminals? Because people are “more than the worst decision they ever made,” Clark says. “Our system has gone too far. It’s difficult for someone with even a very minor, very old conviction to get a job in our difficult economy. After enough time without reoffending, giving them a second chance and a clean slate reduces recidivism and improves their life. It’s common sense.”
Clark’s work helps Kentuckians do everyday things that many take for granted. It helps them get better jobs because they no longer have to disclose old convictions. It allows them to chaperone their child’s school field trips. It helps them to qualify for student loans so that they can improve their lives through education. The list goes on. These examples and more are the reasons that his work has been championed by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and featured in USA Today, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and the Wall Street Journal.
Brad is a wonderful example of a lawyer who saw a need, found a way to address it, and kept the service affordable enough that anyone can use Unconvicted.com to access justice.
Amelia Martin Adams serves as a law clerk to Hon. Tracey N. Wise, Chief Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The opinions expressed herein are her own and do not represent those of the Court. Adams is the Young Lawyers Division Liaison to the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.