Q&A with Josh Niewoehner, CARPLS Supervising Attorney for the New Leaf Illinois project

April 8, 2024

New Leaf Illinois launched in 2020, and has since helped thousands of Illinoisans navigate their cannabis records or arrests.

New Leaf is a free legal aid hotline led by CARPLS, with help from 18 nonprofits throughout the State.

If anyone you know needs help from New Leaf, they can find more information at www.newleafillinois.org or at 855-963-9532.

Why did you decide to come to CARPLS and the New Leaf specifically?

It sounded like a great opportunity for me. I’ve done a lot of expungements and sealings in private practice, mainly in Cook County, but in other counties as well. I always love doing that on behalf of people. It’s such a positive experience for me as a lawyer and for them. I’ve thought about getting into restorative justice for a while, so I’m glad to be here.

Where did you work before CARPLS?

I worked for myself for 15 years as a criminal defense attorney. I started out in my career doing high-profile white-collar cases with other prominent criminal defense attorneys. But when I went out on my own, it was mainly people from the south and west side who were charged in state court.

And how do you feel like that has helped you with New Leaf at CARPLS?

The nice thing about this position is I feel like I’m still using everything I’ve learned in the past 20 years. I’m learning a lot of new things since I’ve been here, but I’m able to use everything that I’ve learned along the way.

What hopes do you have for New Leaf?

The grand vision right now is to have every cannabis case ever charged in Illinois expunged or sealed. I know that may not be possible but as I’ve seen in expungement court, a lot of judges are on board with helping people expunge or at least seal their cannabis cases, and 98% of the people that sign up are eligible for some sort of relief.

Even more, we can start people on the path toward clearing as much of their record as possible, not just cannabis cases.  

What is one impactful client story you can share?

A client who registered for the New Leaf program was arrested in 1994 in Cook County for possession of cannabis and was subsequently convicted and sentenced to probation. For a majority of her life, this case has been on her record. After reviewing her record, determining that she was eligible for expungement under the Cannabis Act, and consulting with her, the client was referred to a local legal service provider. The first referral didn’t work out, but the CARPLS New Leaf hotline followed up with her and was able to refer her to a different legal service provider who is now working with her on expunging her 29-year-old case. 

She gave New Leaf a five-star review and exclaimed, “Very helpful and friendly! Definitely followed up with me and helped me along the way!” 

Get the latest CARPLS news delivered to your email inbox each month!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.