Law students partner with Neota Logic on criminal records expunction app

RALEIGH – Campbell Law students are working with Neota Logic to develop an app specifically for the Blanchard Community Law Clinic to aid in the recent increase in criminal record expunction requests — more evidence the law school is blazing trails in legal technology.

In December 2017, North Carolina implemented drastic changes in its expunction law, to include reducing the misdemeanor convictions wait period from 15 years to five years; the felony convictions wait period from 15 years to 10 years; and eliminating a limit on the number of dismissals that can be expunged.

This change has resulted in a significant increase in the number of residents seeking help through the clinic and other providers such as Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), explained Ashley Campbell, director of the law school’s Blanchard Community Law Clinic.

The new application is the brainchild of Adjunct Professor Tom Brooke, who saw the opportunity to marry technology with this growing legal need with the help of some creative law students.

A partner in Brooke & Brooke Law in China Grove, North Carolina, Brooke is a 1980 Campbell Law graduate and current chair of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA)’s Committee on the Future of Law. He’s also the founder of N.C. Legal Hackers and an experienced software developer with a background in developing web-based applications for the legal community among others.

At Campbell Law, Brooke teaches “Coding for Lawyers” and asked whether his students could develop an application to do two things for the clinic:

  •  Screen participants at the District Attorney’s annual expunction event in Wake County for potential expunction eligibility (thereby weeding out all of those who are definitely not eligible for any type of expunction); and
  • Allow the clinic to input data into the app and then have the app tell the clinic whether a person is eligible for an expunction AND create the form filing from the information.

Brooke and his students used Neota Logic, a software development tool set for automating expertise, to create the app, which asks a series of questions and applies rules to evaluate the user’s eligibility for expunction under the new North Carolina laws. The first version of the app is ready for use on Saturday, Oct. 13, when expunction clinics will be held throughout the state. The Wake County Re-Entry Fair and Expunction Resource Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Macedonia New Life Church, 2004 Rock Quarry Road in Raleigh.

“We chose to use the Neota Logic tool set because we needed the students to be able to build the app quickly and automate complex aspects of the new expunction laws,” Brooke noted. “Neota enables the students to do that, even when they have no prior technical experience.”

Photo of On the back on left  Paul West, Adjunct Professor Tom Brooke, Logan Shipman and Gregory Davis. In front, Connor Purks and Taylor Langley.
On the back on left Paul West, Adjunct Professor Tom Brooke, Logan Shipman and Gregory Davis. In front, Connor Purks and Taylor Langley.

Through her role at the clinic, Campbell is helping lead the initiative along with Brooke and Professor Kevin Lee.

 “Kevin and Tom are both at the forefront of technology in the legal profession and leaders in the Bar in the issue,” she explained. “I am excited to partner with them as we explore how technology can bridge the access to justice gap for those in greatest need.”

Following the success of Saturday’s event, the students intend to share the app with providers throughout the state, Campbell added. “This is very exciting. I’m grateful to Tom – this was all his idea. Ultimately, it could be a great tool for LANC and other providers, as well.”

Neota Logic partners with other law schools, including Georgetown, Cornell and University of Melbourne, to enable the schools to teach programming skills to students and improve access to justice through applications. 

Interested? Participants can go to www.expungenc.com for all of the information and to sign up to attend. For more information about the clinic, contact Campbell@campbell.edu. For more information about Neota Logic, visit https://www.neotalogic.com/pro-bono/law-schools/

Graphic displaying words for NC Criminal Record Expunction Advisor Application