Students at the UW School of Law have worked for the last four years sealing juvenile records for young people through the UW Street Youth Legal Advocates of Washington (SYLAW) student organization.
Through their volunteer work, SYLAW students identified problems with the law governing these juvenile records.
This past year, the law school's Legislative Advocacy Clinic, on behalf of SYLAW as their client, worked for legislation that would seal certain criminal history records.
Their goal was to help hundreds of young adults move on with their lives to obtain employment, housing, and an education.
Their work came to fruition as the Washington state legislature HB 1954 was signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire on April 25, 2009.
"The students' work getting a bill passed during this past session was truly remarkable, given the budget crisis and the unwillingness of many legislators to take on new issues," said law professor Debbie Maranville, director of the UW's Clinical Law Program.
The students were supervised by clinic director Kim Ambrose. "It was rewarding for me to see practice inform policy," said Ambrose. "And, given that the past 10 years have been marked by many harsher penalties for juveniles accused of crimes, there is much more to do, but HB 1954 is a great step in the right direction."
The Legislative Advocacy Clinic provides training for students in legislative and public policy advocacy, as well as education in the legislative process, drafting, commentary, advocacy, building a legislative agenda, working with coalitions, and ethics. Through the clinic, students work directly with non-profit organizations advocating in the state legislature to develop and move legislation as well as respond to proposed legislation.
Legislative Advocacy Clinic students with Washington Gov. Gregoire as she signs HB 1954 into law