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By The Hon. Michael Schneider, Brian Fischer and Katya Dow

A Second Chance:

HBA, UH Law Center Team Up to Seal Juvenile Records T he Houston Bar Association’s Juvenile Records Sealing Project was created in 2013 to give juveniles convicted of minor, non-violent offenses a second chance. With their records sealed, these young people can join the military, apply for jobs in government, and attend college without the stigma of a juvenile criminal record. In 2014, the University of Houston also established a program that now


March/April 2017

works with the HBA to seal records for juveniles who are not eligible under the HBA guidelines. In December 2016, the two programs reached a new milestone by sealing the 300th Harris County juvenile record. The heart of the Juvenile Records Sealing Project is the participation of volunteer attorneys who donate their time and legal expertise to seal juvenile files and records maintained by local law enforcement, governmental agencies or by the Harris County District Clerk. There are now numerous Houston law offices, including some of the city’s largest firms, and eight individuals who are volunteering to seal cases. As leaders in the HBA Juvenile Law Section, the authors of this article helped create a training program for attorneys who want to participate in the program by providing onsite training at law firms. The volunteer lawyers are trained on filing applications to seal files and records, and are prepared for appearances on the courts’ Sealing Dockets. The HBA’s program primarily seals records for juveniles who are granted deferred adjudication or who participated in the Divert 90 or Divert 180 programs. Divert 90 is an informal probation program for youth with no previous record who have been charged with a Class B misdemeanor. Divert 180 is a program for youth with no previous record who have been charged with a Class A misdemeanor. In both instances, the youth must complete requirements that include attending the HBA’s Juvenile Consequences Program (JCP) JCP is a partnership of the Houston Bar Association, the Harris County Probation Department, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the Houston Police Department. It provides education about the juvenile justice system to youth on probation, as well as their parents. The program is held once a month, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. in the Harris County Jury Assembly Plaza. Each partner organization speaks for 30 minutes on its role in the juvenile justice


The Houston Lawyer magazine, March/April 2017 issue

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