Senior Litigation Counsel, Koch Industries
Georgia Justice Project Volunteer and Koch Pro Bono Committee Member
It doesn’t take a magic wand to change lives. Noshay Cancelo is giving people a second chance by helping erase nonviolent misdemeanor charges from their records — mistakes that in some cases have dogged them for years.
By partnering with organizations such as the Georgia Justice Project, Noshay is helping people successfully navigate the complex criminal justice system. She gives her clients the ability to open doors to opportunities that can potentially transform their futures.
“It’s something simple we can do and have a pretty big impact on someone’s life,” says the Atlanta-based Senior Litigation Counsel. “We do live in a bubble, and you realize there are people who don’t have all the opportunities that you have.”
One client, a single mother working in a fast-food restaurant and living in a homeless shelter with her baby daughter, was desperate to expunge a minor fraud charge that was preventing her from getting a better job.
Noshay helped the woman obtain a hearing before the court by filing a motion to modify her sentence and seal the related criminal records.
For Noshay, attending lively courthouse hearings in criminal matters was a dramatic contrast to her daily life as a corporate litigation attorney. She vividly recalls the day her client was in the courthouse bathroom changing her daughter's diaper when her case was called before the judge. Noshay, herself just returned from maternity leave, raced to the bathroom and traded places with her client at the changing table so the client could return to the courtroom.
“Her daughter, when I met her, was six months old. She was a doll. I was thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this child's life is so different from my son's life. They're only about two months apart,’” says Noshay. “She is growing up in a shelter, and her mother deserves the opportunity to give her a better life.”
After listening to her story and hearing about her struggles and the steps the client was taking to better her life, the judge granted the motion and sealed the records. The client was then able to apply for and obtain a higher-paying position and eventually find her own apartment.
Teaming up with other attorneys to work on criminal cases proved an invaluable opportunity to support people who are struggling in our community, says Noshay. Now she wants to encourage others to join the pro bono initiative to broaden their experience and give back.
“I’m not a hero,” she insists. “These are small things I can do to help other people in their journey, their path, to have a better life for themselves.”