'Pipeline to Possibilities'


Forum scheduled in April to help area residents with expungement

By Linda Laderman
Legal News

Forty-sixth District Court Judge Debra Nance is promoting two public forums, one designated to bring more attention to opioid addiction and another dedicated to mitigating some of the challenges Oakland County residents with prior offenses face when they look for employment.

To that end, Nance has partnered with attorneys from Lakeshore Legal Aid and the D. Augustus Straker Bar, along with law students from the University of Michigan Law School Entrepreneur Clinic, to assist those in her jurisdiction who are eligible to expunge their records.

The result is a public meeting, “From Expungement to Entrepreneurship: The Pipeline to Possibilities,” to be held on Friday, April 6 from 2-6 p.m. at the Southfield Public Library.

Including an entrepreneurship element in the April 6 expungement event was the result of a conversation Nance had with Dana Thompson, a U-M law professor who supervises that school’s Entrepreneur Clinic.

“I told Professor Thompson, ‘When defendants come before me unable to pay costs and fines due to a criminal history that makes employment difficult, I often suggest to them if they cannot find a job they should create a job and become employers rather than employees.’ This workshop will provide participants with practical tools to understand the specific steps they should take to hone a business idea and learn how and when to set up a business.”

Talking with participants at an expungement clinic this past January further convinced Nance and Thompson that people whose records had been expunged would, if given the opportunity, enthusiastically embrace the idea of being their own boss.

“Overwhelmingly, the expungement applicants responded that they had entrepreneurial interest in areas like day care, lawn care and painting, and food truck businesses,” Nance said. “It became abundantly clear that an overwhelming number of those seeking expungement would also be interested in starting their own business.”

According to Nance, a person is eligible for expungement if they have two misdemeanors and/or one felony or less, no DUIs or traffic offenses, and it’s been more than five years since the end of their sentence, probation or parole.

“The attorneys from Lakeshore Legal Aid will be able to let the attendees know immediately if their records are eligible for expungement,” Nance sad.

Just two weeks after the expungement fair, Nance will be supporting the city of Southfield’s public distribution of NARCAN kits.

For that endeavor, Nance is collaborating with first responders and other Oakland County office holders to support “Townhall Meeting: The Opioid Epidemic,” set for Wednesday, April 11 from 6-8 p.m. also at the Southfield Public Library.

“Over the last several years I have seen the impact that opioid use has had on our community and our courts. As judges, we are encouraged to take the lead to bring this information to our communities,” Nance said.

It was a lecture on opioid addiction by Sam Quinones, a nationally recognized journalist and author of “Dreamland, The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” that initially inspired Nance to take steps to get the issue in front of the community her court serves.

“Mr. Quinones held the audience spellbound as he described the circumstances occurring in our country, dating back to the 1980s, that led to the perfect storm we now know as the opioid addiction,” Nance said. “He has allowed us to use a portion of his video at the Townhall.”

A judicial conference provided an additional source of information that Nance applied to the upcoming Townhall on the opioid issue.

“After a colleague at a recent judicial conference shared what she did to help educate her community, I contacted our local Families Against Narcotics (FAN) Chapter to help organize the event with police, fire, and other city officials,” Nance said. “Interestingly, our local FAN chapter had recently obtained a grant to distribute the NARCAN kits to the public. Fire officials will be on site to provide training upon distribution.”
Opioid addiction does not discriminate against age or income groups, said Nance, whose jurisdiction includes Lathrop Village; Southfield, city and township; Beverly Hills; Franklin Village; and Bingham Farms.

“I am seeing younger people who are coming in heroin addicted and learning that their drug use began with pain medication for a sports injury. I am also seeing senior citizens who have never had an offense in their life, but are committing retail fraud to pay for drugs once their prescriptions have expired,” Nance said, adding, “I want to do what I can to bring more attention to this issue. My job does not end when my last docket is called.”