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Pro Bono Week 2019 Profile: Jody Cummings – Removing the Barrier of a Criminal Record

By Gwen Washington

Jody Cummings, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, has been an ardent pro bono volunteer for the Expungement Clinic for Rising for Justice (formerly Law Students In Court) for more than two years. His service to the people of the District of Columbia through his volunteerism is exemplary. Jody is the model of sustained excellence in pro bono service.

Jody has been a steady pro bono partner with the Expungement Clinic since 2017. Jody wanted to get involved immediately after attending a record sealing training held at Steptoe in June 2017. There was no obligation for him to take a case or volunteer, but he reached out to the Steptoe Pro Bono Counsel at the time, Barbara Kagan, to find out how he could help the program. He came to the training in June 2017, and the next month, he was volunteering with Jubilee Jobs, one of Rising for Justice’s first community partners! Since that time, he has been one of the most involved and reliable volunteers. He was actually the first pro bono attorney to volunteer at Jubilee Jobs. Every month, sometimes twice a month, Jody comes to Jubilee Jobs to help conduct interviews and intake sessions with potential expungement clients. He also recruited other volunteers from Steptoe to take part as well, including associates, summer associates, and paralegals.

Jody is quite masterful at conducting interviews with potential expungement clients. He is so adept at client interviews that he has been able to staff Rising for Justice’s intake sessions at Jubilee Jobs without any Rising for Justice staff present. He has done so on his own for more than a year. His continued generous donation of time and resources substantially enhances our ability to stretch our resources within our Expungement Clinic. In addition, he volunteers at all of our large expungement fairs at the DC Department of Employment Services over the past two years. He also helped to recruit other Steptoe volunteers for the fairs.

Jody is excellent at building rapport with clients in order to obtain the requisite details for a compelling motion to seal. His thorough interview notes have proven invaluable to Rising for Justice in our client relations. In addition, his detailed notations have facilitated our ability to appropriately place most cases with our pro bono partners. On a more personal note, everyone at Rising for Justice agrees that Jody is an absolute pleasure to work with – always happy to be there; always flexible when issues arise (last minute changes in dates/times/locations, etc.). The care he has shown towards our clients and towards the work we do is evident by the amount of time and effort he has consistently given to us over the last two years.

We are eternally grateful for Jody’s generosity and dedication to our Expungement Clinic. Jody’s exemplary commitment to pro bono service should serve as an example to which every pro bono attorney should aspire.

Gwen Washington is Director of Pro Bono for Rising for Justice, a holistic provider of legal and social services in the District of Columbia. We are both a direct service provider and a law school clinic for students from all six (6) DC law schools. They provide the following services: eviction defense, housing conditions for tenants, criminal defense of misdemeanors, criminal records sealing (expungement), immigration bond hearing representation, civil protection order services for respondents, and social work services for all our clients. Our steady presence in the courts serves as a vital check on a system that favors people with counsel and resources over those persons without such resources and representation.