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December 18, 2019

Inaugural Homeless Court Held in Spartanburg

WSPA 7News

Nelson Mullins of counsel Cindy Crick, left, served as pro bono defense counsel during the inaugural session of a homeless court in Spartanburg, S.C. Judge Erika McJimsey, center, presided over the court. Bill Bouton was prosecutor.

The City of Spartanburg held its inaugural homeless court on Wednesday, an effort made possible with input from a Nelson Mullins team led by George Cauthen during the court's planning stages. Greenville of counsel Cindy Crick represented a defendant who had a petty theft charge that was impeding on her ability to support herself. The client, who was nomadically living out of her car earlier this year, has a refreshed look on life and a plan to get back on her feet: "I'm going to be a nurse, and I'm going to have my part time job," she says. "2020 is going to be my year."

Spartanburg Homeless Court's first session was held at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen. The alternative court is the only one of its kind in the Upstate and is for homeless individuals charged with misdemeanor offenses. To participate in the court, a person must show that they are involved in a rehabilitative or treatment program to improve their situation. "If they do, we can go and reopen their pending cases and dismiss those cases, but we can also go reopen old cases and clean those up too," Cauthen told WSPA 7News. 

Just like Crick's client, petty charges usually prevent those who are attempting to escape homelessness from landing jobs that would help them pay housing bills and other costs of living. Through the homeless court, a judge might reduce the charges, dismiss the case, or expunge an arrest or conviction from the defendant's record.

Former American Bar Association president and Nelson Mullins partner William Hubbard and Cauthen worked with the City of Columbia to establish South Carolina's first Homeless Court in 2013. Since then, Cauthen has helped with the establishment of Homeless Courts in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, as well.

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