Legal Clinic receives additional $100,000 to aid expungement efforts

The University of Tennessee College of Law Legal Clinic has been awarded a second $100,000 grant to continue its work offering civil legal assistance to rural East Tennesseeans.

The Tennessee Bar Foundation first recognized the Legal Clinic with a grant in May 2019 for its efforts to lift barriers for those who want to clear their criminal legal records.

Last month, the Tennessee Bar Foundation announced it would extend that support and offer an additional $100,000 to expand the Legal Clinic’s ExpungeTN project.

In her role as the Legal Clinic’s reentry fellow, College of Law alumna Karla Mendez (’18) has worked to develop the website to offer legal resources for those who need them. With the help of the Tennessee Bar Foundation grant, the clinic also offered one-day expungement clinic events to residents of Polk and Jefferson and surrounding counties. 

“We are so excited to again receive this support to expand our work and serve Tennessee residents in this way,” Legal Clinic Director Joy Radice said. “We couldn’t have done this without the help of the Tennessee Bar Foundation and its support for our program and our fellow, Karla Mendez.”

“We’re so proud of the work she’s helped us accomplish,” Radice said.

Tennessee Bar Foundation Executive Director Barri Bernstein said the grant review committee was impressed with the Legal Clinic’s work of the last 18 months.

“The UT Legal Clinic has accomplished quite a bit including the initial concept of creating community courts to assist people in reentry, and they even did one during a pandemic,” Bernstein said. “The future looks even brighter as this website is rolled out.”

Tennessee Bar Foundation board chairman Floyd Flippin said the work of the Legal Clinic stood out as deserving of additional funding.

“For those who are unable to vote, have a driver’s license and get a job, this will change their life, and they will change the communities they’re living in,” Flippin said. “I take my hat off to the UT College of Law for coming up with this project.”

Since 1982, the Tennessee Bar Foundation – comprised of attorneys from across the state – has financially supported law-related public interest projects.