A Clean Slate

Geoffrey Rosamond helps ex-convicts prepare for re-entry

Published in 2009 New Jersey Super Lawyers — April 2009

Applying for a job or an apartment lease with a conviction on your record is usually a waste of ink. That's why Geoffrey N. Rosamond helped set up Newark Reentry Legal Services (ReLeSe) Network. He believes in second chances.

In 2006, the nonprofit organization Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) was casting about looking for help in setting up the network. Rosamond, who concentrates on criminal defense and commercial litigation in both federal and state courts at McCarter & English, got a call. Earlier that year, Rosamond spearheaded McCarter & English's pro bono expungement program, which worked with several nonprofit organizations to help file requests on behalf of their employees. He led the program, giving training seminars to McCarter & English attorneys and taking on his own pro bono cases. Rosamond's knowledge proved essential in building ReLeSe.

"I had training materials in place and the screening and all the different types of paperwork that was necessary to run a program," he says. "I was excited for the opportunity to help them. They explained what they were trying to accomplish and I was familiar with Mayor [Cory] Booker and his push for stressing the importance of re-entry in the community.

"This is the first of its kind, from my understanding, that helps these individuals with civil issues that could affect their re-entry into society."

New Jersey law doesn't allow expungement for everyone; most sex offenders or those with violent pasts aren't allowed. But for individuals with minor convictions, an expungement is often available after a certain amount of time has elapsed after being incarcerated—people just don't know how to go about getting it.

"These individuals have relatively minor criminal records," Rosamond says. "[An expungement is] really geared towards the first-time offender—somebody who's made a mistake and has that mistake on their record, sometimes 25, 30 years. It's significant in terms of opening doors that otherwise were closed."

He oversees attorneys handling expungements throughout New Jersey, providing feedback and guidance to volunteers. He still takes on his own ReLeSe cases, and he attends monthly meetings as a ReLeSe Steering Committee member, talking with other members about the issues they face.

"My involvement with ReLeSe has truly been a rewarding experience," Rosamond says. "Many of the individuals that I have worked with through the ReLeSe Program are extremely grateful that an attorney has assisted them in their efforts to again become a productive member of society and taken the time to help make a difference in their lives."

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