Retired Judge Volunteers to Help People Turn Their Lives Around

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August 2015 — Retired Judge Sandra Walker is still inspired by the determination of her first Expungement Clinic client in 2012 – a woman getting her life back on track.

“Her cases were related to drug abuse years ago. She has been sober 15 years,” says Judge Walker, now retired from the bench in East Cleveland. In the ensuing years, the woman earned a Bachelor’s degree and is working on her Master’s.

The client just needed someone to help, and recognize all her hard work. Judge Walker filed the papers herself. The client was ecstatic to have this weight removed from her shoulders, says Judge Walker, “I just continued volunteering from there,” joining Legal Aid’s Expungement Clinics every month. Volunteer attorneys help individuals who need a criminal record sealed, so they can have barriers to employment and a normal life removed.

“It helps people tremendously,” Judge Walker says. “People can’t get jobs because of their criminal record and it’s just too bad. Some people I’ve assisted have cases dating back to the 80’s,” and will fail a background check, even if they are qualified for a good job.

Of course, the best plan is to avoid a criminal record in the first place, and in retirement, Judge Walker joins a group of Legal Aid alumni including retired Judge Burt Griffin and attorney David Dawson to reduce gun violence. She tutors young people with the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s 3Rs program, and advises the Shaw High School Mock Trial team.

Judge Walker encourages all her retired colleagues to stay active in the field by volunteering with The Legal Aid Society. Legal Aid’s Act 2 Program engages late-career and retired attorneys and judges to use their legal experience to help ensure that low-income clients get the same access to justice as those who can afford to hire an attorney. Legal Aid supports Act 2 volunteers with malpractice insurance, office space and support, training and mentoring law students and younger attorneys.

If you are late-career or retired attorney, and you want to join Judge Walker and others volunteering – visit www.lasclev.org/Act2 to learn more and sign-up!

Click here to view the full Poetic Justice Issue where this story appeared.

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