A second judge has ruled against a young Lincoln woman seeking to seal a criminal case filed against her four years ago and later dismissed to diversion.

An amendment to the state's "Security, Privacy and Dissemination of Criminal History Information Act" went into effect Jan. 1. It requires the courts to seal public records in cases such as hers that are dismissed by the court.

But Lancaster County District Judge John Colborn found Tuesday that County Court Judge Matthew Acton had properly denied the 22-year-old's motion in February because her right to have the information removed from public record is governed by the law as it existed when Lincoln police cited her.

"In this case, there is no evidence that the Act was meant to operate retrospectively," Colborn said in his order.

Arianna Crum, an attorney with Legal Aid of Nebraska who represented the woman, argued the law should apply here, even if the case involved two city ordinance violations from 2013.

"Our position is that this is not an issue of retroactivity at all," she said Wednesday.

The law automatically seals cases like it starting this year. But, Crum said, it's Legal Aid's position that it became an option available to all legally innocent Nebraskans, no matter when their case was dismissed.

"The whole purpose of the statute was really to help innocent Nebraskans from having the sting of a criminal record so they can move on with their lives and get housing and employment and go to school," Crum said.

She said a criminal case, even one that was dismissed, can be a huge barrier.

The Nebraska College of Law Civil Clinical Law Program also filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting the position, saying it had interest in the outcome because of its Clean Slate Project, which primarily helps military veterans clear up criminal records to improve their access to jobs, housing and education.

In a brief, attorney Ryan Sullivan, a clinical assistant professor, told the judge the clinic had another case like it in county court presumably awaiting the decision here.

When asked if it would appeal, Jennifer Gaughan, director of the legal program at Legal Aid of Nebraska, said those involved are considering their options.

The Journal Star has chosen not to name the woman because the case involved misdemeanors — disturbing the peace and assault — and was dismissed. She was 18 at the time.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.


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