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March 13, 2023

A 2019 trailblazing effort – organized by the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity – to reform the pardon process in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania led to the redesign of the Board of Pardon’s Application for Clemency, setting a new standard to make pardons more accessible for the average citizen.

As a result, an antiquated 20-page application – inclusive of three government forms and 12 pages of instructions written in difficult to understand official terms – was replaced with an application half as long featuring commonly used wording. The new form eliminated most of the ways mistakes were made on the old applications. It also erased a requirement to detail criminal history information that had been expunged and allows applicants to include a personal statement.

John Kiely, now Special Counsel at Stroock, while of Counsel at Blank Rome, submitted an application on behalf of his pro bono client, an individual whose 1980s misdemeanor and a felony conviction was adversely impacting his life and well-being.

Their application went in front of the Board of Pardons, whose members gave a unanimous favorable recommendation. The pardon was granted by (now former) Governor Tom Wolf, enabling the client to get the second chance he has earned.

The Governor of Pennsylvania has since issued almost 2,000 pardons and the Board of Pardons (which must review and recommend people before the Governor can act) has been approving almost 9 out of every 10 pardon applications they hear.

About Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity

PLSE provides free legal advice and representation to low-income Philadelphia residents whose criminal records are holding them back from achieving their social and career potentials. PLSE seeks a more equitable social environment for those with criminal records through individual representation, strategic litigation, community education, research and advocacy. PLSE does this by seeking expungements in criminal court and pardons from the Governor; educating elected, business, and community leaders; empowering and organizing under-resourced communities; and leading legislative, administrative and systemic reform. Learn more here.

March 13, 2023

A 2019 trailblazing effort – organized by the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity – to reform the pardon process in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania led to the redesign of the Board of Pardon’s Application for Clemency, setting a new standard to make pardons more accessible for the average citizen.

As a result, an antiquated 20-page application – inclusive of three government forms and 12 pages of instructions written in difficult to understand official terms – was replaced with an application half as long featuring commonly used wording. The new form eliminated most of the ways mistakes were made on the old applications. It also erased a requirement to detail criminal history information that had been expunged and allows applicants to include a personal statement.

John Kiely, now Special Counsel at Stroock, while of Counsel at Blank Rome, submitted an application on behalf of his pro bono client, an individual whose 1980s misdemeanor and a felony conviction was adversely impacting his life and well-being.

Their application went in front of the Board of Pardons, whose members gave a unanimous favorable recommendation. The pardon was granted by (now former) Governor Tom Wolf, enabling the client to get the second chance he has earned.

The Governor of Pennsylvania has since issued almost 2,000 pardons and the Board of Pardons (which must review and recommend people before the Governor can act) has been approving almost 9 out of every 10 pardon applications they hear.

About Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity

PLSE provides free legal advice and representation to low-income Philadelphia residents whose criminal records are holding them back from achieving their social and career potentials. PLSE seeks a more equitable social environment for those with criminal records through individual representation, strategic litigation, community education, research and advocacy. PLSE does this by seeking expungements in criminal court and pardons from the Governor; educating elected, business, and community leaders; empowering and organizing under-resourced communities; and leading legislative, administrative and systemic reform. Learn more here.

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