Attorneys from one of Portland's most prominent business law firms were honored recently for their pro bono work to protect the legal rights of a special population of Oregon youth and their families.
Youth, Rights and Justice, formerly known as the Juvenile Rights Project, recognized 15 business lawyers from Tonkon Torp LLP who provide legal representation at no charge to help qualified young sex offenders petition for removal of their names from an offenders' registry.
"In Oregon, a juvenile convicted of a felony sex crime is placed on the sex offender registry for life. Given the stigma and difficulty in obtaining employment or housing when someone is labeled a sex offender, we believe this is overly harsh punishment for juveniles who have been rehabilitated and pose no threat to the public," said Gwendolyn Griffith, a Tonkon Torp tax attorney who serves on the board of Youth, Rights and Justice and volunteers her time and legal services to the project.
Griffith explained that while Oregon has a process to remove names of juvenile offenders from lifetime listing on the registry, the procedure is complicated and many young people who would be good candidates simply can't afford an attorney to help them navigate through the system. Tonkon Torp lawyers decided to provide their help as a pro bono project which they have named "Changing Lives Forever." The work is far different from the business-related matters that constitute Tonkon Torp's legal representation of some of Oregon's best known private and publicly-owned companies.
In the last year, the Tonkon Torp attorneys have spent approximately 600 hours helping those who successfully completed sex offender treatment and have not re-offended. "We volunteer because we want to make a difference in the lives of young people who have taken the steps to turn their lives around," said Griffith.
Youth, Rights and Justice is a Portland-based, not-for-profit law firm formed in1975 to improve the lives of vulnerable Oregon children and families through legal representation and advocacy in the courts, legislature, schools and community.