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MADISON – Legal Tune-Up, a new, mobile-friendly technology tool is now available to help Wisconsin residents overcome barriers caused by criminal and eviction records.

“This is an innovative and ground-breaking idea. Nobody else in the country is doing this,” says Marsha Mansfield, a retired University of Wisconsin Law School professor and director of LIFT (Legal Interventions For Transforming) Wisconsin, the Madison-based not-for-profit organization behind the app.

Legal Tune Up was created to help individuals, who have criminal records, obtain or improve their employment or housing opportunities. Employers or landlords often check criminal records, including arrests and convictions, in making hiring or housing decisions. While finding trustworthy responsible individuals is desirable, those who have past minor offenses or dismissed charges often find themselves quickly weeded out.

How The Legal Tune Up App Works

The Legal Tune Up app works like this. Any Wisconsin resident can visit and enter their name and date of birth to search online public records in the Wisconsin Online Record Check System (WORCS) and Wisconsin’s Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP).

If something is found in the search, auto-fill documents can be printed to file a petition for a criminal record clearing. Mansfield noted that these often involve cases where an individual is arrested but not charged or charged but not prosecuted.

Dane County residents, using the app, may be directed to free, legal aid to help resolve issues. In addition, Dane County residents can get assistance with training and employment through the Employment and Training Association and a network of other agencies.

The resolution process includes sending the form and the individual’s fingerprints to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), the state agency that maintains WORCS. Evictions and damage awards that have been resolved are supposed to be removed from the CCAP system in two years “but not always,” Mansfield says.

The Legal Tune Up tool was launched in late May. About 40 people reviewed and used it the first week. “We’re off to a pretty good start,” says Mansfield.

What’s Ahead

LIFT Wisconsin organizers are planning to bring a similar local employment, training and legal support network for Racine-area users of the Legal Tune Up app as early as this fall.

“We have already seen a lot of excitement and willingness to work with us,” Mansfield says.

LIFT Wisconsin hopes to make a Racine-related announcement within a few months.

How It Happened

LIFT Wisconsin was born out of The Alliance for the American Dream, an initiative of Schmidt Futures, which was founded by Eric Schmidt, Google executive chairman. LIFT Wisconsin was awarded $1.1 million that it has used towards its mission of increasing the availability of legal assistance and identifying and addressing unjust policies and systemic barriers.

The collaboration includes the Economic Justice Institute Inc., University of Wisconsin Law School’s civil legal clinics, Center for Patient Partnerships, Legal Action of Wisconsin and the Employment and Training Association of Dane County.

The Legal Tune Up tool was designed and built by Theory and Principle, a legal technology product design and development firm based in Portland, Maine.

Mansfield says that plans are in the works for more technology-driven tools that can assist individuals with driver’s license reinstatement, child support review and debt collection issues.

“We have a lot of great goals down the road,” she says.

Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...