Posted: Dec. 7, 2023
MDExpungement.com was a revolutionary website that automated the expungement process in Maryland. It was launched in 2015 and helped to generate 119,888 expungement petitions. The tool was beloved by pro-se users and lawyers alike. Unfortunately, the Maryland Courts implemented a captcha on Maryland Judiciary Case Search (Case Search) in 2022 which made it far more difficult for the program to automate the information lookup on Case Search. That combined with my no longer living in Maryland and not practicing expungement law, I made the difficult decision to shut down the project in 2023.
The project began as an idea after I graduated law school. I had experimented with building legal tech applications after graduation and one day I had the lightbulb idea that the expungement process could but automated from start to finish. I had been apart of the expungement clinic at Maryland Law School and knew the process fairly well (or so I thought). Over the next few months I had worked with my friend, Phil Smith to create a prototype. The expungement process which I thought I knew from my time in the expungement clinic turned out to have tons of exceptions and carveouts. Luckily, I had shown the prototype to Mary-Dense Davis at the Office of the Public Defender (who is the undisputed queen of expungements) and who graciously helped me understand and catch all the potential expungement issues that could arise.
Expungement law changed in 2016 to allow dramatically more cases to be expunged. All of a sudden there was a need for automation to help the thousands of people now eligible to have their record expunged. MDExpungement happened to be in the right place at the right time. My biggest surprise initially with the website was my assumption that pro-se users would be the biggest user of the website. Almost immediately, attorneys were the biggest user of the website, especially non-profit and pro-bono attorneys.
There were many many additions and iterations over the next seven years, including bulk expungement, accounts, and eventually a chrome extension that allowed the user to generate expungement petitions directly on Case Search.
Eventually, I left MVLS and took at job at the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School. This required me to move to Cambridge and took me out of the Maryland expungement game. It became more and more difficult to maintain the website during my free time. Obtaining funding had always been difficult. I experimented with a freemium model early on but was never able to obtain consistent funding which would have helped me off load some of the upkeep. Eventually, the Court's implemented a captcha on Case Search. I was able to bypass it for a time but it became a moving target and eventually became too difficult to maintain. I made the tough decision to shut down MDExpungement.
The site won numerous awards, was featured in a number of articles, and I was asked to speak at conferences all over the world. It also solidified that legal tech was the right career path at a time when I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my law degree.
There are many people to thank for MDExpungement's success.