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United States v. Morgan

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

April 5, 2018

JOE MORGAN, Defendant.



         I. Procedural History

         In August 2004, the pro se[1] defendant Joe Morgan pleaded guilty to one count of use of a communication facility to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b). ECF No.372. The defendant was sentenced to a term of 48 months incarceration, followed by one year of supervised release. At the defendant's sentencing hearing for his conviction in this Court, the defendant was adjudged under the United States Sentencing Guidelines as having a criminal history category of III based on four criminal history points.

         II. Facts

         The defendant has mailed a letter to this Court asking that this Court expunge his federal criminal conviction. The defendant's letter was dated November 15, 2017 and received on November 17, 2017. In his letter, the defendant states that he wishes to have his federal criminal conviction expunged in order to pursue a career that would require that the defendant not have a criminal background. The defendant conveys to this Court that he accepts responsibility for what he did and has since changed his life. He states that he not only obtained his GED, but also has been employed as a heavy equipment operator for Murray Energy Corporation for the past six years. Further, he has since had three children and become engaged. He also states that he has not violated any other laws since 2004. He states that because he has turned his life around and paid his debt to society, and in order to reach his full potential, the defendant believes that his criminal record should be expunged.

         The Court believes that based on the content of the defendant's letter, that letter should be treated as a petition to expunge a federal criminal conviction. Thus, this Court now performs an analysis under that belief and finds, based on the following, that this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the defendant's petition.

         III. Applicable Law

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and can only exercise the authority conferred by the Constitution or by statute. Additionally, although 18 U.S.C. § 3231 provides “district courts with original jurisdiction ‘of all offenses against the laws of the United States, ' a district court's jurisdiction under this statutory provision ends once the judgment of conviction is entered.” United States v. Mitchell, 683 F.Supp.2d 427, 432 (E.D. Va. 2010); 18 U.S.C. § 3231. Thus, no federal statute or regulation generally provides for expungement of a federal offense. Stoute v. United States, CIV.A. RDB-11-1220, 2011 WL 2037672 (D. Md. May 24, 2011).

         Further, federal jurisdiction “is not to be expanded by judicial decree.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Consequently, a district court must have ancillary jurisdiction to complete the expungement of a federal offense where “there is no explicit constitutional or statutory grant of jurisdiction.” United States v. Mitchell, 683 F.Supp.2d 427, 433 (E.D. Va. 2010).

         IV. Discussion

         The defendant states that he is seeking expungement of his federal criminal conviction. The defendant argues that expungement is warranted because of his positive actions and decisions since his conviction, and in order to move forward in his career. Based on the following analysis, however, this Court finds that the petition for expungement of his federal conviction should be denied because this Court lacks jurisdiction to review the matter.

         A. Kokkonen and Ancillary Jurisdiction

         The concepts and boundaries of ancillary jurisdiction were explained in the United States Supreme Court's analysis in Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Insurance, 511 U.S. 375 (1994). Ancillary jurisdiction, or as it is sometimes called, “ancillary enforcement jurisdiction, ” is the concept under which federal courts maintain jurisdiction over related proceedings that are technically separate from the claims or causes of action in the initial case that invoked federal subject matter jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 378-89.

         Significantly, the Supreme Court held that ancillary jurisdiction may be asserted for two purposes: “(1) to permit disposition by a single court of claims that are, in varying respects and degrees, factually interdependent; and (2) to enable a court to function successfully, that is, to manage its proceedings, vindicate its authority, and effectuate its decrees.” Id. at 379-380 (citations omitted). Thus, in the dispute that arose in Kokkonen over the enforcement of the terms of a settlement agreement, the Supreme Court found that it did not have ancillary jurisdiction because that dispute did not fall within the two purposes listed above. Id. at 381-82. Similarly, as discussed more fully below, because the expungement of a conviction ...

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