Graduate joins Legal Clinic to assist in expungement work

College of Law graduate Karla Mendez has joined the Legal Clinic to assist in efforts to serve underrepresented populations in East Tennessee.

Mendez, a 2018 graduate of UT Law, is working as the College of Law Legal Clinic’s reentry fellow and helps with the ExpungeTN Project to provide legal services to those who struggle to overcome their criminal records. 

The position is funded through a grant from the Tennessee Bar Foundation’s Tennessee Legal Initiatives Fund. The College of Law was awarded a $100,000 grant last year to help better serve residents of rural East Tennessee.

In her position, Mendez, along with College of Law professors and students, identify and assist individuals seeking to remove charges from their criminal records. Mendez is also instrumental in the Legal Clinic’s efforts to host community court events partnering with judges, court clerks, district attorneys and public defenders to provide legal assistance in rural populations.

As a student, Mendez took part in the clinic’s expungement work helping to organize an event in 2017 that assisted hundreds. Mendez has focused her legal practice on immigration law, criminal defense and civil litigation since graduating.  

Legal Clinic Director Joy Radice said Mendez has a passion for working with underserved populations and will be an asset to the College of Law in her work with ExpungeTN.

“Karla’s skill, determination, and talent will help us better assist residents of Tennessee’s rural areas,” Radice said. “Karla has been working hard this semester to organize a community court event for residents of Jefferson and Cocke counties.  She is also busy developing content for our website.”

The next community court event will take place at the First Baptist Church of Dandridge on Oct. 17 and more than 175 people are registered to attend.

The UT College of Law Legal Clinic is a national leader in clinical education, ranking ninth in U.S. News and World Report’s top legal clinical programs among public universities and 20th among all U.S. law schools.