Emma-Lee targets collateral consequences of juvenile arrests through direct representation, community education, and law reform so New York City youth can pursue higher education, employment, and professional licenses.
Each year, thousands of youth are arrested as juvenile delinquents in New York City and will face discrimination and collateral consequences due to that arrest. Sealing records, ensuring record accuracy, and counseling on non-disclosure will make a crucial difference for youth who already face over-policing and are unable to pay for private counsel who typically seal and expunge these records. Many impacted individuals who will be served by this project are otherwise unaware of the legal protections available to them and are denied or discouraged from pursuing jobs, licenses, or admittance to a higher education institution, as a result of arrest-related discrimination.
This project aims to break down barriers to employment and education by enforcing New York Family Court Act’s protections and empowering New Yorkers with juvenile arrests to defend their rights against record-based discrimination.
Fellowship Highlights to Date
In the past year, Emma-Lee has:
- Represented 21 individuals in juvenile delinquency proceedings, including dispositional conferences and motions to seal
- Advised 14 individuals with juvenile delinquency arrests and adjudications on the Family Court Act record-related protections relating to employment and higher education
- Successfully challenged criminal history reports that contained erroneous juvenile records
- Conducted trainings on the New York Family Court Act post-dispositional protections and record-related provisions for New York City legal organizations that represent people impacted by the criminal and juvenile legal systems
- Established a collaborative relationship with New York City and state agencies to ensure juvenile record accuracy
In the next year, Emma-Lee plans to:
- Continue representing individuals in Kings County Family Court and advising those with juvenile delinquency arrests and adjudications on employment and record-related protections
- Expand record-related statutory protections in the Family Court Act through legislative reform
- Draft and distribute Know Your Rights Manual accessible to young people, their communities, and lawyers regarding arrest disclosures, sealing and expungement, and collateral consequences
As a former high school teacher, I have witnessed how an arrest stemming from the purported rehabilitative system of delinquency court can stifle the ability of a young person to access employment, licenses, or higher education—the very opportunities that would propel them from a life rooted in poverty, stigma, and recidivism.
Emma-Lee Clinger /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow
During her Fellowship, Gina provided legal services for women with children living in Harlem who were threatened with eviction from public or subsidized housing due to the collateral consequences of criminal charges.
98% of low income people facing eviction go unrepresented. Due to mass incarceration and War on Drugs policies, one in four women has a loved one incarcerated. Women with incarcerated loved ones regularly face housing instability due to losses of household income when a family member is incarcerated; the costs of bail, court, commissary expenses, fines and fees; and policies that lead to tenancy terminations in low income housing resulting from criminal cases. Through direct representation and free tenant legal clinics with the support of pro bono attorneys, this Fellowship keeps women and the family members relying upon them housed.
During the two-year Fellowship, Gina:
- Designed and implemented a housing defense practice
- Represented more than 100 low-income women in eviction cases
- Provided service referrals for more than 400 individuals
Gina Clayton-Johnson is the Founder and Executive Director of Essie Justice Group, the nation’s leading advocacy organization of women with incarcerated loved ones taking on the rampant injustices created by mass incarceration. She is also the central architect of the BREATHE Act, the largest piece of federal legislation delivered to Congress by a social movement.