Expanding Expungement in Georgia is Given a Second Chance

By Gilbert Morales, Reference GRA

On January 1, 2021, Georgia’s “Second Chance” law went into effect. The new law improves an individual’s ability to restrict and seal certain criminal convictions from the general public, a process commonly referred to as expungement. According to the Georgia Justice Project, “Georgia finally joins 41 other states that allow an individual an opportunity to expunge certain convictions after a period of time.”[1] The new law is the latest development in a decade-long push to facilitate rehabilitation for former offenders. Advocates contend that public access to all convictions, even minor offenses, poses a substantial barrier to a former offender’s rehabilitation. Allowing access to an individual’s criminal history can limit job opportunities and housing eligibility, increasing the chances for that individual to re-offend. 

Misdemeanors 

Advocates say the new law is a step forward. Unlike Georgia’s previous “record restriction” law that only allowed court petitions for sealing offenses that did not result in a conviction and made a narrow exception for misdemeanor convictions committed by individuals under 21, the new law allows individuals to seal two misdemeanor convictions with limited age restrictions. So long as an individual has not reoffended and 4 years have passed since completing their sentence, they can petition the court to seal their misdemeanor conviction. The law does not cover all misdemeanors. Notably, misdemeanors involving sex crimes are excluded from consideration. Moreover, all family violence battery convictions are excluded unless the individual was under 21 years old at the time of the arrest. 

Felonies and Pardons

The new law also covers felony convictions that were pardoned by the State Board of Pardons & Paroles. So long as the pardon was not for a serious violent felony or sexual offense, an individual can petition the court to seal the record of that conviction. An individual must wait 5 years after they have completed their sentence before petitioning the court and cannot have re-offended during those 5 years.

The Process 

A petitioner seeking to restrict and seal a misdemeanor conviction must petition the court that handled the case. For felony convictions, individuals must first obtain a pardon and then file a petition in the original sentencing court. In sealing documents, the court will consider the harm to the individual versus the public interest in knowing about the conviction. An important caveat to remember is that although a record may be restricted and sealed from the general public, law enforcement and prosecutors retain access to those records. 

Beyond Expungement

An important wrinkle in the new law is the liability protection for employers hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds. Liability protection addresses the fear by some employers that hiring someone with a criminal background who then commits a workplace offense will lead to a claim against the employer for negligent hiring. Whether this fear is well-founded is up for debate and another blog entry, nevertheless, it is a major feature of the new law.

Going Forward

The Second Chance law is a major opportunity for former offenders to build back their lives. By allowing misdemeanor convictions and felony pardons to be petitioned, the law enlarges the pool of individuals that can have their records restricted and sealed. The hope is that the new law enables these individuals to integrate back into society. That being said, there are always places where the law can expand such as applying record restrictions to felony convictions that are not pardoned. As one advocate from the Georgia Justice Project stated, although the Second Chance law is a step forward in the right direction, “it is only the beginning.”[2]

To Learn More

The Georgia Justice Project is hosting free sessions to help people understand their criminal history and what they can do about it on the first Friday of each month in 2021. For more information and contact information for them, go to https://www.gjp.org/first-fridays/. Also, to locate additional legal aid that may be available for pro se and self-represented litigants the legal services in Atlanta & the Metro-Atlanta Area Legal, check out our Legal Services in Atlanta & the Metro-Atlanta Area Legal Library Guide (LibGuide).

NOTE:  This post is an update to 2017’s post on the same subject https://theblackacretimes.com/2017/10/24/criminal-background-checks-georgia-law/.


[1] https://www.gjp.org/wp-content/uploads/2020.9.21-SB-288-One-pager_Final.pdf

[2] https://www.gpb.org/news/2021/01/01/second-chance-law-takes-effect-offers-hope-georgians-criminal-past

Managing Your Time in Law School

[UPDATED REBLOG FROM JAN. 2019]

By Sara Landeryou, Reference GRA

Whether you just survived your first semester, are beginning your last, or are somewhere in between, YOU ARE BUSY.  And no one but other law students or lawyers really gets it.  So how do you make time to do everything you need to do, some of the things you want to do, and the things your family and friends expect of you?  You could stretch yourself so thin that you snap.  You could stop sleeping or eating to gain extra time.  You could let the exercise go.  Or, you can keep reading (if you have the time) and learn some tricks for using your time wisely while in law school.

There is no way to add hours to your day, so we need to learn how to use the time we have more effectively.  The ideas below are geared toward the time that we are in school, but good habits will hopefully spill over into our lives after school and will be helpful as our responsibilities change.

Your future may include working in big law and billing lots of hours for several years, getting married and having children, opening your own firm, you just never know.  Learning how to manage your time effectively now will help with all those things that are coming more quickly than you think!

So what can you do?

Get more and better sleep.  It seems counterintuitive when you are trying to save time, but getting more and better quality sleep will actually save you time in the long run.  When you are well-rested, you have more energy, your mind is clearer (for studying), and your body is healthier, so you don’t risk getting sick when finals roll around.

Exercise.  Yes, it takes time, and maybe you can’t carve out an hour a day, but even a little will help you to feel better.  You can add exercise or at least extra movement during the day.  It will keep your body and brain energized and you will feel better for it at the end of the day.  Take the stairs, do your reading while you’re on the treadmill or the elliptical, do a few relaxing yoga poses five minutes before bed.  Even increasing your movement 15 minutes in bits throughout the day is a win.

Mix your studying and social time.  Really.  Study (virtually) with your friends.  Have a glass of wine or a beer.  Work through hypos in a more relaxed and social scene.  You can’t study drunk, but you’ll actually learn more by talking through hypos with friends than by rereading a case book.  Yes, you’ve got to practice writing, but the most important part of learning is really “getting” it.  That is done by talking it through and practicing applying the law.  Who better to do that with than the people at school that you like the most.

Give family and non-law friends 100% of your attention.  This is tough.  You’ve got so much on your mind, you really don’t have time to hang out, and now you’re being told to give 100% of your attention?  It can be done.  In fact, one of the reasons they are frustrated is that when you are with them, you aren’t “with” them.  So, you can actually get away with less time as long as the time you give is quality time. Do a movie night with friends or video chat with mom/dad during lunch. But don’t think about law school at all.  You need the break and so do they!

If you are working….  This is a little harder but worth a try.  If you are a student that is working and going to law school, try to work in the legal field.  First, your colleagues will understand the struggle better than non-law colleagues and they’ll cut you some slack.  Second, you’ll be learning more about the law while you are at work, and you’ll be learning a lot of the things you don’t learn in law school.  You’ll also be networking to some extent and may work yourself right into a post-law school job which will save you a lot of interviewing time.

Turn off your phone.  Not all the time, but for at least an hour of reading/studying time.  It is so easy, especially when you have a boring class and/or terrible reading, to keep peeking at your phone or listening for that little buzz that lets you set the book down and check out something more interesting.  Just shut it down!  Give yourself an hour and power through all of that reading instead of dragging it out and never finishing it all.

Plan.  Set a plan for yourself.  This doesn’t mean that you have to make an hourly calendar of what you are going to do, but it does mean taking 5 now to look ahead.  If you’ve read your syllabus and you know that you’re going to have a project due at the end of February, right about the same time that your best friend has her annual birthday party that leaves you in bed for three days after, start working on it as soon as possible.  Outline as you go instead of waiting until the end of the semester, set monthly goals for that big paper so that you can turn it in before it is due instead of cranking it out at the end.

Reflect.  At least for a few minutes, each day, week, or month.  Look at what has been working for you, and what hasn’t, and change it.

Have any other ideas for saving time?  Share them with your friends!

Dear 1Ls,

By Christina M. Herd, Reference GRA

Congratulations! You have almost made it through your first semester of law school. I remember how overwhelmed I felt at this point in my first semester. Is my outline sufficient? How do I begin studying for finals? Do I even understand the material? I was able to ask these questions to my peers in person, and I cannot imagine the difficulties of a 1L semester that is mostly online. The Law Library is here to help.

Consider study aids a multi-tool in your law school toolkit. They include hypotheticals of all lengths for exam prep, multiple-choice questions to check your knowledge of concepts, and, most importantly, summaries of cases and concepts. Some of your professors may have included suggested study aids in your syllabus. If not, the Law Library has compiled a list of useful sources for you as you enter exam season.

Resources for Comprehension

You may find yourself struggling to understand the legal concepts you learned back in August, or even last week, as you prepare for exams. Many study aids provide clear and concise summaries of the material. Here are a few of the best resources to help comprehend legal concepts:

Casenote Legal Briefs 

Glannon’s Guide

The Acing Series

Resources for Exam Preparation

Having a thorough outline ready for exams is important, but an outline is most useful when used as a reference and not a crutch. Testing your knowledge as you prepare your outline is a helpful way to ensure your exam time is spent creating a thoughtful analysis as opposed to researching rules. The more hypos you practice, the more prepared you will be for the exam. Here are a few of the best resources to test your knowledge:

Emanuel’s CrunchTime 

Examples & Explanations

Exam Pro Series

Most importantly, as you enter the exam season, don’t forget to take a deep breath and take care of yourself. You’ve got this!

Research Smarter Not Harder

By Gilbert Morales, Reference GRA

During my 1L year, researching caselaw triggered instant anxiety. To me, conducting research was an overwhelming experience that was hard to manage. Thankfully, I was wrong. Yes, conducting research is tough, but it is manageable by taking advantage of resources made available by the library. 

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One invaluable resource is the library’s collection of research guides (also known as LibGuides). LibGuides essentially serve as a one-stop-shop for beginning your research process. They cover many major law school topics, including Georgia Legal Research, Criminal Law, and Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Students will find links to secondary sources like major journals, treatises, and even articles. 

Students will also see links to primary sources like the Georgia Code, the Federal Code, and local ordinances. What is neat about the guides is that they include tips and tricks to make research easier for you. For example, they provide direct links to secondary sources in Westlaw and LexisNexis so that researchers do not waste time trying to navigate those resources. 

As everyone knows, time is of the essence in law school. Research guides include different approaches to accessing resources, including links to research institutes and links to popular blogs that monitor the trends for any given topic. For example, in the Land Use guide, students are directed to the Wayback Machine to uncover website pages that are no longer available online. These tips and tricks are just the tips of the iceberg. Research guides are full of different ways to make the research experience easier and more productive. 

In addition to research material, LibGuides provide links to study materials. From evidence to tax law, students can access study aids, CALI lessons, and exam archives for each topic. The convenience of finding all the essential study aids in one location is truly a time saver. 

So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by the research experience, take a deep breath, and visit the LibGuides on the library website!

Virtual Research Assistance Is Available

By Luke Smith, Reference GRA

Whether you’re a master at using Westlaw or Lexis, or are just starting your journey into legal research, there will come a time when you feel stuck or don’t even know where to begin. Researching can be difficult and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be!

The library has some great online resources that can help you start your research and find what you need faster. As most of our 2L and 3Ls know, whenever you get stuck, you can always come to chat with your Reference Librarian, usually at the reference desk in the library. If you haven’t noticed by the lack of puzzles on the 5th floor, the reference desk is temporarily part of the circulation desk.  Now before you start panicking, thinking your librarians have abandoned you, the reference desk has gone virtual for the semester.

During the law library’s usual reference hours, you’ll be able to chat virtually with one of our reference librarians. You read that correctly. It’s not some automated A.I. response, but an actual human waiting to help you! All you need to do is go to the law library website and click on the red tab on the right side of the homepage. Just type in your question, and one of our librarians will give you an answer just like they would at the reference desk.

You may still be thinking, “I’m glad I can still talk to the librarians if I get stuck, but how do I even start my research on my own?” Thankfully, the Law Library has some great Research Guides on several topics that will help you start your research and become the most efficient researcher you can be.

From the library’s homepage, click on the box that says research guides. It will take you to a page where you can pick a topic and get a terrific guide that’ll help you plan your research strategy.

Learn more about our LibGuides in our next blog post!

Summer Hours & Online Access to Library Resources

By Gilbert Morales, Reference GRA

For Blog

During these uncertain times, it’s important to know your resources. No, not Netflix or endless TikTok videos, I’m talking about library resources. Many Law Library resources are accessible to every law student online. For example, study aids are available online for class prep such as Sum and Substance Audio and Acing series by West Academic and Examples and Explanations (E & E) and Emanuel Crunchtime series by Wolters Kluwer. Learn more about those resources from our previous post titled Featured Resource: The Library’s Online Study Aids. Also, don’t forget about the library exam archive!

Along with class prep, students can access other basic library services remotely throughout the summer. For example, did you know that students can still chat with a librarian? Simply visit lawlibrary.gsu.edu and click on the “Chat Reference” tab in red. There, students and others can chat with the librarian on duty. You can also leave a voicemail at 404-413-9102, or ask a question via email to lawreference@gsu.edu. Reference Services will be provided during the summer at the hours below:

  • Monday – Thursday: 8:30 am – 6 pm
  • Friday: 8:30 am – 5 pm
  • Saturday – Sunday: 1 pm – 6 pm

If you have books checked out from the law library, you may renew your books by signing in to your account from the GIL-Find catalog. You can also access the Gil-Find catalog by searching first for a title from the Law Library home page. Students–and anybody else with a library account–can view their books or other things checked out and simply renew them. I just did with one click! Of course, students can still return books to clear their library accounts. You can return books by dropping them at one of the drop boxes outside of other GSU campus libraries.

Lastly, A.L.E.R.T. sessions remain available! Simply visit the ALERT iCollege page, watch the video, and complete the session’s quiz satisfactorily. Remember students completing six topics will earn a Distinction badge, students completing eight topics will earn a High Distinction badge, and the Highest Distinction badge will go to students completing 10 topics. So what are you waiting for, earn some bragging rights by going after that High Distinction badge!

The library is open online for your convenience, and lots of resources are available for you! To learn more about available resources through remote access, visit here.

Resources for Final Exams & Papers

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Flickr photo by Jesse Michael Nix

By Tiffany Williams, Reference GRA

Preparing for final exams and final papers remotely add an added level of stress to an already daunting task.  Fortunately, the Law Library offers an array of online resources and tools to ensure that your new study environment does not hamper your ability to have a successful and triumphant final exam period.

Students may utilize the library’s research guides to begin strategizing the best way to tackle their final papers.   There are guides in more than 25 subject areas, ranging from Alternative Dispute Resolution to Wills, Trusts, and Estates.  In addition to a comprehensive list of both Federal and Georgia-specific primary sources, the guides also provide links to several secondary resources like treatises, statistical reports and data sites, and blogs.

Students can also take advantage of the library’s online research databases.  HeinOnline, for example, offers thousands of law review articles which not only help students to develop a greater understanding of the law surrounding their topic area but also serve as a great way to find references to primary law authority. Pro Tip: Footnote scouting is a great way to find relevant and useful sources to help guide you in your research.

The reference desk is also a great way to obtain further direction in completing research as you begin mapping out the direction of your final written assignments.  The reference desk staff is offering reference desk services during finals via online chat and email from 8:30AM – 7:00PM Monday through Thursday and 8:30AM – 5:00PM on Friday.  Whether your question involves locating an online version of a print resource or simply obtaining guidance in figuring out where to start in your research, the reference desk chat is a priceless resource to be included in everyone’s final exam/final paper toolkits.

For final exam preparation, one of the most invaluable resources is the library’s online study aids.  Check out an in-depth review of the Law Library’s online study aids in this Featured Resource blog post. The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instructions (CALI) also provides students access to over 1,000 interactive legal tutorials and lessons across 55 topic areas.  CALI lessons serve as a great way to supplement your course study by filling-in the areas in which you may not have obtained a strong understanding of the substantive material.

We wish you the best of luck on your finals!

Featured Resource: The Library’s Online Study Aids

By Gilbert Morales, Spring 2020 Reference GRA

It goes without saying that understanding the law is hard work, but you’re not alone in this endeavor. The library has many resources to chart your path to crushing those pesky law school exams. One of the most invaluable resources is the library’s online study aids. Students anxious to begin exam prep can access online the West Academic Study Aids and the Wolters Kluwer Study Aids by visiting the GSU Law Library website and clicking “Online Study Aids” in the Services tab.

Blog Study Aid

In West Academic Study Aids, students can take advantage of the newly added Exam Pro quizzes. To find this tool, simply search the Exam Pro Series then filter by “Quizzes” under “Type” in the left navigation bar. Exam Pro quizzes allow students to immediately see correct answers and problem explanations. It also breaks down law school subjects into subtopics so students can focus on specific areas.

West Academic also provides access to the entire Acing Series. Like Exam Pro, the Acing Series also dives into subtopics and provides easy to understand explanations. However, it focuses mainly on short answer essays. Students can also benefit from double-checking their outlines by using Acing’s easy to follow topic checklists. Line by line students can understand the logic and sequence of contract formation, civil procedure, and rules of evidence.

Moreover, for the podcast generation, West Academic has the Sum and Substance Audio series where every major law subject is broken down into bit size audio clips ranging from 3-20 minutes. Listening to audio clips offers flexibility that can be used most effectively during exam crunch time.

Students can also access the Wolters Kluwer Study Aids that has a range of accessibility features. One notable feature is the ability to download study aid content. Downloadable materials make it easier for students to quickly access study aids on their desktop. Wolters Kluwer also offers audio and video content. For the visual learners among us, the “In Other Words” video series provides understandable material explained by law professors and legal practitioners from nearly all major areas of law.

Additionally, Wolters Kluwer offers invaluable content like Examples and Explanations (E & E) and Emanuel Crunchtime. Much like the Acing Series, E & E provides easy to understand explanations of topics and subtopics but also includes more short answer hypotheticals. So if your exam includes short answer questions, E & E is your go-to.

Emanuel Crunchtime is another terrific study aid because it’s among the most comprehensive. To give you an idea, this study aid typically includes short answer questions, multiple-choice questions, and essay exam questions, all with answers included. Emanuel Crunchtime even has flowcharts!

It’s important to remember when reviewing study aids that explanations will differ from your professors but as one 3L advised me, “use study aids to fill in the gaps.” Meaning where a professor was ambiguous, use a study aid to clarify. With that being said, it’s best to sample study aids to see what suits your study style. Remember you’re not alone on this journey, use study aids to reach your goal and crush your exams!

Time Management Suggestions for 2Ls+

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Image from Google

By Maggie Garrett, Fall 2019 Reference GRA

We’ve hit the Mid-Year Slump!

Things we forget from first-year but are still wildly important.

  • Make a schedule;
  • Complete class readings;
  • Organize class notes by topic (for future outlining);
  • Review each class; and
  • Quiz yourself throughout the semester.

After making it out of your first year of law school alive it may be tempting to ignore, or at least avoid, the academic commitments listed above. Especially if you were lucky enough to perform well. But – don’t sleep on schoolwork. It will pile up, stress you out, and 2L coursework is no joke.

But if your goal was to keep up from day one, and you happened to fall behind, don’t worry. Just move forward. Get a friend’s notes, meet with your professor, make a time-management plan or checklist – but the most important thing is not falling further behind. Don’t let a cycle begin where you try to “catch up” but don’t have time to keep up. Personally, I like to make a weekly check-list. If I don’t get to something, I note what I missed. When finals arrive I just remind myself that I need to review those things more closely.

Remember, balance is key my friend. Remember balance? That thing they preached during first-year orientation (in a galaxy far, far away)? Yeah, it’s still very, very relevant. If you sacrifice time spent cooking, exercising, hanging with friends, or even Netflix-ing you will implode. Make room for these things, or you will regret it.

Also, hate to break it to you, but it’s time to make a finals game-plan. Or at least decide when you’d like to start and finish outlines. But keep in mind – these are just personal deadlines. No need to beat yourself up for not meeting a self-imposed deadline. Instead, just get an idea of when these things should be done to keep you somewhat on-track. This tip is meant to prevent anxiety, not create tension.

Feeling stressed because you’re “not doing enough?” Relax. We (2Ls) have three semesters to figure our futures out (sorry 3Ls). We have time. Don’t overextend yourself now or you’ll be burnt out.

And uh, guys – prioritize. We can do some things, but we can’t do all the things. Unless you happen to have a time-turner – in which case please @ me. Extracurricular activities and part-time jobs are solid resume builders but don’t sacrifice too much academic time. You’ll thank yourself later.

Summer Puzzling

By Sara Landeryou

Whether you’re new to law school, or nearing the finish line, the first few weeks are a little exciting.  The newbies, of course, are excited to be in law school and everything is freshand different.  For the rest of us, it’s just getting to see friends again and meeting

Puzzle Picturenew professors.  But now, after the first few weeks, you suddenly find yourself sliding back in to the drudgery of being in school and the stress that comes with it.  If you need a few minutes (or even longer) to decompress, why not stop by the library and put your mind on something that’s not law school related?

As you can see, the summer farm scene puzzle is completed, but there’s a new one waiting!