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City Employee Credits Alumnus with Ending 20-Year Nightmare

Michael Epps, Regina Rosa-Brown

July 22, 2014

In the eyes of Regina Rosa-Brown, Drexel Law alumnus Mike Lee, ’09, looks a lot like Superman.

As the executive director and supervising attorney of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, Lee leads a citywide Criminal Records Expungement Project, which has helped thousands of Philadelphians get incorrect or outdated information removed from arrest records.

At an open house for Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships on July 17, Rosa-Brown said Lee and another attorney from the organization freed her from an injustice that had dogged her for decades.

An Air Force veteran, Rosa-Brown had been sweeping the hallway outside her Germantown apartment when two women attacked her.  Rosa-Brown put her military training to use as she defended herself, and both of her attackers wound up in a hospital. 

But after one of the attackers filed a complaint against Rosa-Brown, police charged her with attempted murder.  

“The D.A. said it’s because they went to the police first,” Rosa-Brown said. 

Although a defense attorney bargained the charges down to mutual combat, the decorated veteran who had never before received so much as a traffic ticket suddenly had a criminal record.

That record prevented her from finding or keeping well-paid jobs for 20 years.

“I was only able to get ‘nothing jobs’ for ever and ever,” said Rosa-Brown, who is pursuing a degree in advertising at Temple University.

In 2012, soon after Rosa-Brown learned about the Criminal Record Expungement Project, Lee and another attorney took her case and represented her in court.

“They were right on top of everything,” she said.  “The next thing I knew, my record was expunged.”

Through the project, Drexel Law students work with Lee and other attorneys to help other Philadelphia residents clear errors from criminal records that prevent them from getting jobs, housing and other resources.

The project is one of several initiatives with which the law school’s Community Lawyering Clinic, housed at the Dornsife Center, has formed a partnership, said Professor and Clinic Director Rachel Lopez.

Rosa-Brown is now delighted to have a job with the Philadelphia Housing Authority, where she oversees a computer lab for residents.  

And she is extremely grateful to Lee and the other attorneys and law students who are willing to help other city residents.

“I served my country, but I couldn’t shake this thing,” Rosa-Brown said.  “I want people to know this is for real.  It empowers you.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.”