United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR
EXPUNGEMENT [DKT. NO. 642]
M. KEELEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is the pro se motion for
expungement filed by the defendant, Sean James
(“James”), which asks the Court to expunge his
arrest and criminal record relating to this case.
reasons that follow, the Court concludes that it lacks
jurisdiction to grant James the relief he requests and must
therefore DENY the motion.
3, 2002, James was one of thirteen defendants charged in a
thirty-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court. He
ultimately pleaded guilty to Count 25, distribution of .67
grams of cocaine base. Now, fifteen years later, James has
served his sentence and completed his term of supervised
release. In order to advance his career and continue his work
in the community, he requests that the Court expunge his
arrest and record. Based on the following analysis, however,
this Court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction to expunge
James's arrest and conviction records.
Court must answer two questions regarding the motion for
expungement. First, does any statutory or regulatory
authority support expungement? Second, does the Court have
jurisdiction to consider the motion for expungement? The
answer to both questions is no.
is no statute or regulation authorizing the expungement of
the records of James's arrest and conviction. Although
there are statutes that permit expungement for overturned
convictions or to correct inaccurate government records,
these do not provide for the kind of equitable relief James
seeks. See e.g., 10 U.S.C. § 1565(e), 42 U.S.C.
§ 14132(d), 18 U.S.C. § 3607(c), and 5 U.S.C.
only colorable jurisdictional basis for his requested relief
is the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction. Despite the
limited jurisdiction of federal courts, the Supreme Court of
the United States has recognized that federal courts do
possess “ancillary jurisdiction . . . over some matters
(otherwise beyond their competence) that are incidental to
other matters properly before them.” Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 378
(1994). Kokkonen held that federal courts may invoke
the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction where necessary
“to permit disposition by a single court of claims that
are . . . factually interdependent, ” and “to
enable a court to function successfully, that is, to manage
its proceeding, vindicate its authority, and effectuate its
decrees.” Id. at 379-80.
Kokkonen, seven circuit courts of appeals have held
that district courts lack ancillary jurisdiction to hear
requests for expungement of criminal records on purely
equitable grounds. Beginning with United States v.
Sumner, the Ninth Circuit concluded that a
“district court does not have ancillary jurisdiction in
a criminal case to expunge an arrest or conviction record
where the sole basis alleged by the defendant is that he or
she seeks equitable relief.” 226 F.3d 1005, 1015 (9th
Cir. 2000). Similarly, the Second Circuit and Eighth Circuit
have held that district courts lack ancillary jurisdiction to
hear motions for expungement in cases involving lawful
convictions. See also Doe v. United States, 833 F.3d
192 (2d Cir. 2016) (holding that district court “lacked
jurisdiction to consider [petitioner's] motion to expunge
records of a valid conviction”); United States v.
Meyer, 439 F.3d 855 (8th Cir. 2006) (concluding that,
“in light of Kokkonen, . . . ancillary
jurisdiction does not extend to expungement of a criminal
conviction where the petitioner asserts solely equitable
First and Third Circuits have expounded on the impact of
Kokkonen, explaining that, even in cases resulting
in acquittal, “Kokkonen forecloses any
ancillary jurisdiction to order expungement.”
United States v. Coloian, 480 F.3d 47 (1st Cir.
2007); see also United States v. Dunegan, 251 F.3d
477 (3d Cir. 2001) (finding that “a District Court does
not have jurisdiction to expunge a criminal record, even when
ending in an acquittal”).
circuit courts have concluded that Kokkonen goes
even further, holding that district courts lack ancillary
jurisdiction to expunge criminal records even in those cases
where charges against the defendant are dismissed. See
United States v. Field, 756 F.3d 911 (6th Cir. 2014)
(“[Federal courts lack ancillary jurisdiction over
motions for expungement that are grounded on purely equitable
considerations-e.g., motions alleging that the movant has
maintained good conduct and that the record of arrest harms
the movant's employment opportunities”).
recent decision, the Seventh Circuit addressed a case similar
to Field, in which the government had dismissed all
charges against the movant. See United States v.
Wahi, 850 F.3d 296 (7th Cir. 2017). In Wahi,
the Seventh Circuit reversed its earlier decision in
United States v. Flowers, 389 F.3d 737 (7th Cir.
2004), and concluded that, in light of Kokkonen, a
“district court lacks ancillary jurisdiction to hear
requests for equitable expungement.” 850 F.3d at 303.
Notably, the Seventh Circuit made the following observation:
With this holding we join five of our sister circuits, each
of which has read Kokkonen to preclude the assertion
of ancillary jurisdiction over a request to expunge judicial
records on purely equitable grounds. No circuit has rejected
this understanding of Kokkonen. ...