PLSE hosts volunteer paralegal and attorney training

PLSE hosts volunteer paralegal and attorney training

Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) with the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals (PAP) co-hosted a training program in criminal record expungement at Pepper Hamilton LLP on January 18, 2018. The training provided an overview of the creation, dissemination, and destruction of criminal records in Pennsylvania. More than 30 paralegals and 4 attorneys have now been trained in Philadelphia County expungement and sealing practices, and they will be assisting in filing more than 50 petitions before the end of January. This is the second training that PLSE has hosted on criminal record expungement for legal professionals, but the first time that PLSE offered CLE credit approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

If you are interested in attending a future training or becoming part of the volunteer paralegal and attorney program, please contact us at

PLSE at DC Drug Policy Summit

PLSE shares expertise on expungements and the effects of criminal records histories with National Drug Control Policy leadership

Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) began 2018 with its Managing Attorney, Zane Johnson, going to Washington, D.C., with Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack and Board of Pardons Secretary Steven R. Burk, to discuss Pennsylvania’s “Pathways to Pardons” program. The summit was called by Richard Baum, Director of National Drug Control Policy, and was also attended by representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole, and several high-ranking members of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Lieutenant Governor Stack is the architect of “Pathways to Pardons” –the only such programs in the country. As he wrote when launching the program in 2015, “individuals with a history of substance abuse often have a past that is checkered by crimes they committed while suffering from addiction. Once fully committed to recovery, their criminal history, while not representative of the people they are today, continues to thwart their ability to lead fully productive lives by limiting their career opportunities, their ability to get jobs, and even their ability to get housing or financial credit.” For these citizens, expungements and pardons represent a pathway to a better life, for them and for their families.

“PLSE has worked closely with the Lieutenant Governor since the creation of Pathways to Pardons and has been a key partner as we have presented the program to the community,” said Secretary Burk. “Our meeting with federal officials in Washington demonstrated the importance of having at the policy table lawyers who share a passion for justice, expertise in expungement, and demonstrated success in persuading judges to release those once addicted to drugs from the heavy chains of their criminal records histories, so they can pursue their potentials.”

The group discussed the Pathways to Pardons program as a potential nationwide model to help Americans receive a second chance after accumulating a criminal record while battling addiction. A pardon is a forgiveness of crime and the restoration of rights and privileges lost as a result of the conviction, making it possible for a crime to be expunged completely from a person ‘s criminal record. In Pennsylvania, only the Governor can grant a pardon, and only upon the recommendation of the Board of Pardons.

“We look forward to working with PLSE in the coming year,” Secretary Burk continued, “with the objective of significantly reducing the time it takes to grant a pardon to those who have truly turned their lives around.”

About Pathways to Pardons

Pathways to Pardons brings together representatives from the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, Department of Corrections, Board of Probation and Parole, and service providers to provide information on the pardon process. The program encourages individuals with past convictions to apply for a pardon to help them achieve a second chance at life.

The full press release can be found here.

PLSE announces new leadership

Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity announces new leadership

Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) announced today that Zane Johnson has been named Managing Attorney and that Carl (Tobey) Oxholm has been named interim Executive Director. These changes follow the appointment of PLSE’s founding Executive Director, Mike Lee, to the position of Legislative Director by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

“This change in leadership could not have come at a better time for PLSE,” said Ryan Hancock, Chair of the organization’s Board of Directors. “While we are sad for PLSE that Mike Lee is leaving, we are truly excited by knowing there will be meaningful criminal justice reform under the leadership of the city’s new District Attorney. PLSE will do all that it can to support those efforts, and we are indeed fortunate to have such talented individuals already with PLSE to carry forward Mike’s many accomplishments without missing a beat.”

A graduate of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, Zane began his service with PLSE as one of thirty-three Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellows nationwide. Working primarily on the Criminal Records Expungement Project, Zane has taught and supervised scores of volunteers as they performed intakes and prepared petitions for hundreds of PLSE clients. Last year alone, he personally represented more than 350 clients, filing over 1625 expungement petitions on their behalf, with a success rate of over 98%. He also helped launch a new partnership with the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals whose members will provide pro bono assistance, potentially allowing PLSE to double the reach of its expungement services. In addition to his work with PLSE, Zane works as a facilitator for Good Shepherd Mediation’s Juvenile Offender Diversion Program and sits on the board of the nonprofit organization, Art for Justice. As managing attorney, he will be responsible for supervising PLSE’s Criminal Record Expungement Project and Fair Employment Opportunities Project, and managing relationships with community partners.

Tobey Oxholm has been a fixture of Philadelphia’s public interest community for decades, having served as Chief Deputy City Solicitor and a Trustee of Community Legal Services for twenty years, and having co-founded three volunteer legal service organizations: Philadelphia VIP, the Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project, and the Homeless Advocacy Project. He has received many awards for exemplary public service to underserved communities, including the American Bar Association’ Pro Bono Publico Award, the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Bar Medal. He began his service with PLSE as a volunteer staff attorney in September 2016. As the interim Executive Director, he will serve as the chief admini- strative officer, lead the organization’s development efforts, and help launch the new Pardons Project.

The full press release can be found here.

PLSE wins Pa Bar Foundation’s prestigious Goffman Award!

PLSE wins Pa Bar Foundation’s prestigious Goffman Award!

The Philadelphia Lawyers For Social Equity will be recognized by the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation for our commitment to training, supervising, and supporting Pro Bono service in Pennsylvania. The presentation from the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation to take place Wednesday, May 10, in Pittsburgh at the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Click here for more information about the Goffman award and the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s annual meeting.