Class Blasts Empty Promise of Sealed Records

     (CN) — Michigan promises certain youthful offenders that it will seal their records after probation but one woman claims in a federal class action that Oakland County court officials have been shirking this duty.
     The program in Michigan — called the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, or HYTA — has been a fixture of state law since 1967, according to the federal complaint filed last week in Detroit.
     It allows eligible defendants under the age of 21 to have their criminal records sealed if they plead guilty to the charged offense and complete their probation successfully.
     In addition to sealing the proceedings, participation ensures that the offenders’ record reflects a dismissal of the criminal charges.
     A woman who participated in this program in 1994 brought the underlying lawsuit on Aug. 31 against the Oakland County Clerk’s Office, the circuit court, and the clerk and chief judge in charge of those offices.
     TCU says she expected her record to be sealed but received a copy of her criminal record this past January “as part of notice of an adverse employment decision.”
     Though the woman sued under her name, this article uses TCU’s initials in light of privacy concerns.
     Claiming that she is not alone, TCU says the Oakland Clerk’s Office has “consistently made erroneous docket entries which fail to reflect the dismissal of the plaintiff’s and class members’ underlying criminal charge.”
     Plus, the office has “consistently transmitted the erroneous docket entries to the Michigan State Police, leading to those records’ public availability,” according to the 16-page complaint.
     TCU accuses clerk Lisa Brown of having “negligently failed to supervise her office and/or establish procedures for her office which should have been in place to prevent the wrongful transmission of the plaintiff’s and class members’ non-public records.”
     Chief Judge Nanci Grant’s failure to keep the records private meanwhile has caused the plaintiffs “social stigma, adverse employment decisions, and resulting economic and emotional harm,” according to the lawsuit.
     TCU’s four-count complaint alleges breach of contract and constitutional violations.
     The class seeks compensatory and punitive damages, plus an injunction.
     They are represented by the Alyson Oliver Law Group in Troy, Mich.
     The defendants did not return requests for comment.

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