DELAWARE COUNTY, PA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court in response to the Delaware County Office of Judicial Support’s refusal to expunge a criminal record due to unpaid court costs, despite a court order requiring expungement.
The ACLU-PA client, K.B., received a full pardon from Governor Tom Wolf for a 2019 marijuana possession conviction as part of the Pennsylvania Marijuana Pardon Project. The conviction made it difficult for K.B. to obtain employment and housing. Every person who receives a pardon is automatically entitled to an expungement, and a judge on the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas ordered full expungement of the case. In violation of this court order, the Delaware County Office of Judicial Support has refused to expunge the marijuana conviction from K.B.’s record because he had not paid $897.75 in court costs.
The failure to expunge K.B.’s conviction is in defiance of the judge who issued the initial order and the President Judge of Delaware County’s prior instruction to process such expungements. It is also a violation of the Criminal History Record Information Act and the Pennsylvania Constitution.
“For at least the second time in the last year, the Office of Judicial Support has illegally refused to expunge a criminal record due to unpaid court costs,” said Andrew Christy, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Both Governor Wolf’s pardon and the judge’s order to expunge the case are clear on their face: all records of the conviction must be destroyed. There is no exception for court costs. The clerk’s refusal to expunge this conviction over unpaid court debt creates a two-tiered system of justice where only those who can afford to pay can benefit from a pardon and expungement. It’s not just wrong; it’s illegal.”
The lawsuit asks the Commonwealth Court to order that the Delaware County Office of Judicial Support and the head clerk, Mary Walk, must comply with the court order to expunge K.B.’s conviction, and to award damages, costs, and attorney’s fees to K.B.
In addition to counsel at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, K.B. is also represented by John Yi, Brian Kisielewski, Bridgette Lehman, and Anya Gersoff at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, as well as Erica Briant at Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
You can find a copy of the filing at aclupa.org/KBvDelco.