We have an exciting update to a GJP success story to share!
Recently, we shared news of a GJP appellate victory with the help of GJP volunteer attorney Al Adams (retired partner from Holland & Knight) that highlights the invaluable work our volunteer attorneys do to help our clients move beyond their criminal history and access opportunity. After Al’s tireless work, the Georgia Court of Appeals granted GJP’s request to reverse the Pulaski County Superior Court’s decision to deny GJP client Jane Doe’s petition to be resentenced as a Retroactive First Offender (Retroactive First Offender is a law GJP advocated for successfully in 2015 that allows individuals who were not given a second chance at the time of their sentencing to go back and request one if they meet the requirements).
Jane is a great candidate for Retroactive First Offender, and exactly the kind of person the law was intended to help. She was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of fighting in high school in 2011 when she was only 17 – she did not have an attorney when she went to court and she did not know to ask for First Offender at the time. Now 25 years old, Jane has had difficulty getting her Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certification and pursuing a nursing career after graduating because of this old charge. Jane is one of the countless Georgians who has experienced barriers to employment and housing because of an old and irrelevant criminal history – barriers that harm individuals and the Georgia economy.
Jane came to GJP for help in early 2019, and GJP volunteer attorney Al Adams filed a Retroactive First Offender petition which, if granted, would make it possible for Jane to restrict this conviction from her record and move forward with her life. However, the petition was denied by the Superior Court after the District Attorney’s office argued she should not be resentenced, primarily due to the fact that the original court – Hawkinsville Municipal Court – had been abolished. The District Attorney stated that Jane was simply out of luck, nothing could be done. All of Jane’s hard work to move on would be for nothing.
GJP was not going to give up, and Al was more than willing to help. GJP appealed the denial to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Attorneys Jared Miller and Erik Badia (Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs), also volunteered their time to provide invaluable research and assistance during the appeals process.
Fortunately, the Georgia Court of Appeal agreed with Jane! The Georgia Court of Appeals found that the Superior Court, as a court of general jurisdiction, did indeed have authority to modify Ms. Doe’s sentence to give her a second chance.
Judge Ken Hodges of the Georgia Court of Appeals wrote a special concurring opinion where he reminded Georgia prosecutors and others of “the very important objective articulated by our General Assembly [in passing criminal records reforms] – that is, to ‘promote an offender’s successful reentry into society.’”
As an update to this story, we recently received word the Hawkinsville Municipal Court was reinstated! Al reached out to the new City Solicitor, who quickly agreed that Jane should be granted Retroactive First Offender, and the order was signed earlier this week. Thanks to Al Adams’ efforts, this charge is no longer a conviction and has been sealed. Jane can now pursue her dream to become a nurse.
We are so proud of the work GJP volunteer attorneys do and grateful that Jane would put her trust in us. Our deepest appreciation to Al Adams, Jared Miller and Erik Badia for making this victory possible, and congratulations to Jane!