As a young girl, Jordan Huttenlocker dreamed of being a veterinarian. Over the years, however, her ambitions shifted, and she eventually became a lawyer, practicing medical malpractice defense. For a time, this was the perfect marriage of her interests. But after eight years of working as a full-time attorney at a large firm in Chicago, Jordan and her husband decided to move back to Ft. Wayne. Jordan took a step back from her career to focus on raising their two small children. Soon, however, she sought part-time employment again. “I realized I really did miss practicing law,” she says.
Jordan interviewed at our Ft. Wayne office and was offered an attorney position for Project GRACE (Guided Re-Entry Assistance & Community Education), helping people to file for expungements and to clear their criminal records.
Twice a month now, Jordan meets with potential clients to look over their records. Thanks to the complex nature of each individual case, however, she spends much of this time clarifying the law for them. “A lot of people aren’t actually eligible. They have outstanding fines that they still owe or they haven’t reached the time period that is required under the statute,” she says. For instance, a person might have been charged with a crime in 2011, but was not convicted until 2012. This means they would not be eligible to file for an expungement until 2020, instead of 2019, as they might originally believe.
During their meetings, Jordan works to unravel such knots of confusion. “I am looking at all of their charges and giving them one-on-one consultations, reviewing their file, and discovering with them,” she says. “They are getting the most up-to-date, accurate information that they can when they meet with me.”
Although in Allen County the processing of these cases can be slow, Jordan has already had several victories in the short time she has worked for the Clinic. She recalls one woman whose petition was granted recently. “She was able to secure employment other than being a server at a restaurant,” Jordan says. “She’s now working at an organization here in Ft. Wayne and it changed her life because she now has benefits and vacation time.”
Jordan explains that the Second Chance Law is beneficial not only to the individual she is serving, but also to the community at large. “Sometimes these charges and/or convictions stem from instances that really were misunderstood. And sometimes people do make mistakes. Maybe they have one little ding on [their record] and it prevents them from being gainfully employed and contributing to the community 25 years later,” she says. “I know people who probably should have had stuff on their records from high school who don’t because they had the means to get an attorney.”
And so by providing expungement assistance to those who are low-income, Jordan has a chance to help level the playing field. “Everyone is entitled to a second chance.”
To learn more about Project GRACE, please visit our website.