Letters From Our Readers: Help for trafficking survivors

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Help for trafficking survivors

As lead attorney for the Moore & Van Allen Human Trafficking Pro Bono Project in Charlotte, North Carolina, I am proud of our long-standing commitment to provide free legal representation to survivors of sex and labor trafficking. The firm launched the project in 2013, and to date it has represented survivors in more than 200 matters. Much of our work has included analyzing survivors’ eligibility for expunction or vacatur of criminal records often incurred during the period of victimization. Our experience has taught us how post-conviction relief for human trafficking survivors is vital to their independence. Records of convictions and even dismissed charges limit survivors’ access to jobs, housing and other stabilizing opportunities, thereby increasing their risk of revictimization.

With regard to “Finding Relief,” February-March, page 16, those of us who provide legal aid related to post-conviction relief for human trafficking survivors are enormously grateful to the ABA for focusing on this issue.

However, we were disappointed to see that the significant and on-point legislative success achieved in North Carolina this past year was not noted in the article. In July 2019, the North Carolina governor signed into law House Bill 198, which passed unanimously in both chambers of our general assembly. Among other things, House Bill 198 expanded the grounds and streamlined the process for human trafficking victims to expunge or vacate convictions for nonviolent crimes that were committed as a direct result of the individual being a victim of human trafficking. Before this law, only prostitution offenses were eligible for such relief under the statute. Additionally, it created a civil cause of action for victims to recover damages from individuals who trafficked them or financially benefited from the trafficking activity.

The bill charted a path to reverse unjust but common criminalization, which will help to restore and heal survivors. The North Carolina law now better reflects and addresses the trafficking victim experience. This legislative change was presumably the type that the ABA intended to recognize and inspire in the article.

The legal community applauds the ABA’s attention to this issue. However, inclusion of North Carolina’s noteworthy success in future coverage may lead to more progress and therefore better support for survivors in their pursuit of justice.

Sarah Dohoney Byrne
Charlotte, North Carolina

Cliché, anyone?

The ABA Journal regularly features the best legal writing teacher on the planet, Bryan A. Garner, who champions writing that is refreshing. Yet in “Reel Justice,” February-March, page 25, you have the subhead “Just the tip of the iceberg.”

Reading that phrase puts a bee in my bonnet and gives me a bone to pick with you. Haven’t writers beat that horse so dead that nothing is left, not even bones? Didn’t that train already leave town? That cliché goes over like a lead balloon. Maybe someone was asleep at the wheel. Anyway, all’s well that ends well.

Day R. Williams
Carson City, Nevada

Too many social justice stories

Just reviewed the February-March issue.

Stultifying. Pure boredom. The most interesting content was found in the “Letters from Our Readers,” page 8. Well, I’d also include the ethics article, “Legal Malpractice in Criminal Cases,” page 28, by David L. Hudson Jr. Some interesting points in that piece.

Really? The journal for the national attorney organization can’t put out a magazine with most of the articles on topics that are of interest to practicing attorneys? As opposed to endless articles on social justice activities? I’m all for social justice, however defined, but one or two stories would likely be sufficient. My local bar association does a better job.

Matthew M. Kremer
San Diego

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