Georgia Supreme Court Upholds New Expungement Law
On January 19, 2016 the Supreme Court of Georgia released its opinion in Mosley v. Lowe. The Court unanimously upheld Georgia’s new record restriction (a process more commonly known as expungement) law that went into effect July of 2013. Georgia Justice Project had worked with the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform and the state legislature to help draft and advocate for this new law which expands access to record restriction for non-convictions and certain old misdemeanor convictions and makes the process easier and less costly going forward.
The Mosley v. Lowe case came before Georgia’s high court because Georgia Justice Project submitted an application to restrict the record of a 1996 dismissed case from our client’s criminal history and the application was wrongfully denied under the new law. The Clayton County Solicitor General’s office denied the application stating that the criteria in the old law applied rather than the criteria in the new law.
Georgia Justice Project successfully appealed the denial to the Clayton County Superior Court. The Solicitor’s office then appealed that decision in our client’s favor to the Supreme Court of Georgia, arguing that it would be unconstitutional to apply the new law to old arrests. The Supreme Court unanimously disagreed with the Solicitor, stating, “[t]he amended version of O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37 thus both is intended to apply and properly can be applied to Lowe’s record restriction request.” Following the Court’s decision our client’s record has now been restricted.
Volunteer attorneys assisted Georgia Justice Project every step of the way in the appeal process. Michele Young, who is retired from the Office of the Attorney General, and John Moye, Counsel with Kilpatrick Stockton, played important roles in drafting the briefs and helping GJP’s attorney prepare for oral arguments. Also, a coalition of national and state partners, led by Community Legal Services in Philadelphia and the Savannah office of the Georgia Legal Services Program, came together to submit an amicus (friend of the court) brief explaining the essential role expungement plays in helping individuals move on after an arrest so they can obtain employment and find a place to live. Other organizations who signed the brief were the Georgia Center for Opportunity, the Georgia Supportive Housing Association, the Legal Action Center, the National Employment Law Project, and the United Way of Greater Atlanta.
Georgia Justice Project is grateful for all the support we received from our volunteers and partners and we are pleased that the decision in Mosley v. Lowe will ensure that the new record restriction law is implemented properly. Georgia Justice Project is committed to defending our clients’ right to restrict eligible records so that people with a criminal record can move on with their lives and be productive citizens.