BYU LawX launches Goodbye Record to address flaws in the expungement process
Provo — BYU Law, a global law school focused on leadership and innovation in the legal field, announced the development of Goodbye Record – an online resource assisting individuals, legislators, and corporate partners to address flaws in the expungement process, and implement solutions to permanently protect second chances for individuals who have had their records expunged. Goodbye Record is a project of BYU LawX, a legal design lab in which students use design thinking to analyze and address pressing social legal issues.
During the Winter 2021 semester, eight LawX students consulted with Utah Supreme Court Justice Constandinos “Deno” Himonas and other prominent Utah judges, attorneys and legal experts to study flaws in Utah’s expungement process and develop this resource, which is applicable to and scalable for expansion across the country.
“I am really excited about this project,” says Justice Himonas. “It is such a powerful example of design thinking and application. Rather than trying to replicate other efforts, LawX studied the space and sought to understand what the real choke points are to create some really innovative approaches to the expungement process.”
The class was led by adjunct professors Marie Kulbeth, COO and general counsel at SixFifty; Eric Vogeler, general counsel and CCO at Genesis Block; and Justin Whittaker, principal at Invisible Co., who shared his expertise in product and business development as well as design thinking. BYU Law chose expungement as the topic for the latest LawX project in part because of the school’s past experience offering a Pro Bono Expungement Clinic.
When an individual has his or her record expunged, it is supposed to be a fresh start, but flaws in the system and outdated online information often make it difficult to fully erase a criminal past, which can negatively impact an expungee’s ability to secure housing and employment. LawX uncovered research finding that 90% of landlords and 94% of employers use online background checks, and fully expunged records increase odds of employment by as much as 13 times, which is particularly important as companies seek to fill openings for low- and medium-skilled workers.
The partner component of Goodbye Record, available at www.goodbyerecord.com/partners, invites employers to take the Fair Shot Pledge to implement and support a series of measures to help reduce instances of misreporting, thus giving qualified individuals a fair shot at employment. Companies that take the pledge may display their corporate logo on the Goodbye Record website to let potential employees know they support individuals seeking a fresh start.
The individual component of Goodbye Record informs people on how to navigate post-expungement roadblocks, including how to report violations to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and how to communicate with the expungement clearinghouse to help background check companies remove expunged records from commercial databases. Currently, individual petitioners are responsible for reaching out to all the different agencies to make sure their records are expunged. This cannot currently be done electronically and often requires individuals to take time away from their work or job searches.
The government component of LawX’s expungement project addresses potential legislative and administrative solutions, including ways states and courts can improve the final step of expungement, limit access points, and require subscribers to update their databases. It also contractually provides a way for a state to detect when companies are abusing access to this data and hold them accountable. Earlier this month, the BYU LawX students presented their findings to the Utah Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts, and discussed proposed solutions. As a result, the Utah Office of the Courts has committed to amending its Compiled Data Dissemination Agreement accordingly and will also consider championing proposed legislation in the next Utah legislative session, including shifting the ultimate burden of distributing expungement orders away from individual petitioners and to the Bureau of Criminal Identification, who could directly and electronically request that agencies remove expunged information from their records.
“LawX has been one of the most fun and fulfilling classes I’ve been part of, and I feel fortunate to have played a role in finding solutions to the expungement problem,” says Ruben Felix, a third-year BYU Law student. “It is really fulfilling to craft real solutions to help real people. Goodbye Record is not just going to help people who need it now, but in the future as well.” Ruben and his fellow LawX students hope the Goodbye Record movement catches on to effect change in better employment and housing outcomes, and ultimately reduce recidivism for individuals seeking a fresh start.
Launched in 2017, LawX is a design-thinking class in which second and third-year BYU Law students seek to address access to justice legal issue one semester at a time, whether through a change in policy, process or product. The students utilize design thinking to research, ideate, prototype, and test a solution in a fast-paced environment. Previous LawX projects have generated technology-based solutions, including SoloSuit to fight debt collections in court without a lawyer, and Hello Landlord to improve landlord-tenant communication. Goodbye Record marks the first time LawX has incorporated legislative and public interest solutions to a social legal issue.
For more information about LawX, follow @LawXLab on Twitter or the LawX blog at https://lawxblog.wordpress.com/.
About BYU Law School
Founded in 1971, the J. Reuben Clark Law School (BYU Law) has grown into one of the nation’s leading law schools – recognized for innovative research and teaching in social change, transactional design, entrepreneurship, corpus linguistics, criminal justice and religious freedom. The Law School has almost 7,000 alumni serving in communities around the world. In its most recent rankings, SoFi ranked BYU Law as the #1 best-value U.S. law school in their Return on Education Law School Ranking and U.S. News ranked BYU Law among the top 30 Best Law Schools. For more information, visit https://law.byu.edu.