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Vacatur and Expungement Relief for Human Trafficking Victims

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 92 minutes
Recorded Date: January 31, 2017
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  • Receive a national overview of vacatur and expungement laws
  • Learn about the process of vacating criminal records in Maryland, New York, and Florida
  • Learn about the ABA's Survivor Reentry Project, led by the New York Legal Aid Society, which conducts national advocacy, training, and technical assistance on these issues
Runtime: 1 hour and 32 minutes
Recorded: January 31, 2017


Survivors of human trafficking should be treated as victims, not criminals. Despite this, many victims of human trafficking have criminal convictions for prostitution or other crimes that traffickers forced them to commit. Some have criminal records in multiple states. For victims, these criminal records can pose a significant barrier to rebuilding their lives. Criminal convictions prevent trafficking victims from obtaining employment, housing, education, custody of their children, and even bank loans.

In response, a growing number of states have passed vacatur laws that allow victims to petition to clear their records. In order for these laws to be effective, trafficking survivors must be aware that they are eligible for relief. And advocates must be trained to file for vacatur and expungement.

This program was recorded on January 31st, 2017.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Kate Mogulescu

Supervising Attorney, Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project
The Legal Aid Society

Kate Mogulescu is a supervising attorney in the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice, where she has represented indigent clients facing criminal prosecution for the last decade.

In 2011, Ms. Mogulescu founded and developed the Legal Aid Society's Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project, the first anti-trafficking project to be implemented by a public defender organization. She continues to run this innovative project, which aims to better identify victims of trafficking and exploitation among individuals prosecuted for prostitution in New York City.

Ms. Mogulescu’s project has been featured in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, and lauded by the American Bar Association. She regularly trains public defenders, prosecutors, and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system, both in New York City and nationally, on best practices to identify victims of sex trafficking and prevent the criminalization of vulnerable populations.

Ms. Mogulescu has been invited to testify before the New York City Council and New York State Legislature on the issue of combating sex trafficking. Ms. Mogulescu was recently named one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association, an award recognizing legal professionals who have distinguished themselves in their field, and have demonstrated a profound commitment to LGBT Equality. In 2012, Ms. Mogulescu was named a finalist for the American Constitution Society’s David Carliner Public Interest Award, which "recognizes outstanding mid-career public interest lawyers whose work best exemplifies its namesake’s legacy of fearless, uncompromising and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people."

Ms. Mogulescu received her J.D. from Yale Law School and a B.A. from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

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Jessica Emerson

University of Baltimore School of Law

Professor Emerson began the Human Trafficking Prevention Project of the Saul Ewing Civil Advocacy Clinic in August of 2015. Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Emerson was a staff attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Women’s Law Center of Maryland. There she began the innovative Trafficking Victims Post-Conviction Advocacy Project, which focused on implementing a 2011 Maryland law allowing survivors of sex trafficking to vacate their prostitution convictions. She trains nationally on vacating convictions and the collateral consequences of criminal convictions for people in the commercial sex industry.

Professor Emerson received her J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2013, where she was the recipient of the Law Faculty Award. Prior to attending law school, Jessica was a social worker at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York City, where she provided intensive individual mental health counseling and case management services to HIV-positive and sexually high-risk adolescents, as well as group counseling and HIV testing services to adolescent survivors of domestic sex trafficking and LGBTQ youth at partnering community agencies. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Rhode Island, and her Master of Science in Social Work degree from Columbia University, with a focus on health, mental health, and disabilities. She is a barred attorney in Maryland and a licensed social worker in New York State.

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Brent A. Woody

Founder & Attorney
Brent A. Woody, P.L.

Brent Woody has a background in small business ownership, along with years of experience in the music industry as a songwriter, producer, arranger and performer. He partners with individuals, businesses, and organizations throughout Florida.

Over the last several years, Brent has become involved in efforts to end human trafficking and to serve victims. His firm represents victims and survivors of human trafficking and social service providers who serve the needs of trafficking victims.

In addition to providing legal advocacy for victims and service providers, Brent is also involved in building a team of professionals, such as physicians, counselors, attorneys, and dentists, who will provide much-needed services to rescued victims. Also, Brent is involved in initiating trafficking-related legislation with the Florida legislature.

Brent Woody was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1997, after graduating magna cum laude from the University of South Florida and cum laude from the Florida State University College of Law.

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