United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
DAVID J. NOVAK, Magistrate Judge.
Charles L. Taylor ("Defendant") comes before this Court requesting that "police and court records relating to" his assault charge from 2012 be expunged and sealed. (Mot. for an Order of Expungement and Sealed ("Def.'s Mot.") (ECF No. 6) at 1-2.) The Government responds that this Court lacks jurisdiction to expunge Defendant's record, or, in the alternative, that no exceptional circumstances exist that warrant expungement. (Government's Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for an Expungement ("Gov.'s Resp.") (ECF No. 7) at 2-6.) On April 28, 2014, the Court held a hearing on the motion. For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that it lacks jurisdiction to rule on Defendant's motion. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion for an Order of Expungement and Sealed (ECF No. 6) is DISMISSED.
I. Factual Background
On June 14, 2012, the United States filed a Criminal Information against Defendant, alleging that he had assaulted an individual while at Fort Lee, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(4). (Criminal Information (ECF No. 1) at 1.) On July 16, 2012, Defendant, represented by counsel, had his initial appearance before this Court, and the Government moved to continue the matter for six months. (Appearance of Counsel (ECF No. 2); Gov.'s Resp. at 1-2.) Upon agreement of Defendant and the Government,  the Court granted the motion and took the matter under advisement on the condition that Defendant would complete pretrial diversion. (Misdemeanor Proceedings (ECF No. 3).) On October 25, 2012, the Court dismissed the case with prejudice, because Defendant had fully complied with the terms of his pretrial diversion. (ECF No. 4 ("Dismissal Order").)
Defendant now alleges that the dismissed charge against him continues to cause his co-workers and superiors to alienate him. (Taylor's Resp. to Government's Objection to Mot. for Expungement ("Def.'s Resp.") (ECF No. 8) at 4-5.) Specifically, Defendant feels that the Special Assistant United States Attorneys ("SAUSAs") did not deal with Defendant honestly, because the SAUSAs "knew [Defendant] was innocent" but proceeded with pretrial diversion anyway. (Def.'s Resp. at 5-6.) As a result, Defendant asks this Court to expunge his arrest record and to seal the records related to this case. (Def.'s Mot. at 2; Def.'s Resp. at 6.)
As an initial matter, the Court must determine whether it has jurisdiction to address Defendant's motion. Both Defendant and the Government agree that should this Court have jurisdiction to rule on the merits, jurisdiction must arise from the Court's equitable powers. (Gov.'s Resp. at 2; Def.'s Resp. at 3-4.) The Government contends that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the matter in light of the Supreme Court's ruling in Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375 (1994). (Gov.'s Resp. at 2.) Specifically, the Government argues that the Court's power to expunge is a collateral matter to the underlying charge, requiring analysis under the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction. (Gov.'s Resp. 2-4.) Defendant responds that the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction does not apply, because Defendant's case is factually distinguishable from both Kokkonen and other post-Kokkonen expungement cases that analyze a court's power to expunge under the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction. (Def.'s Resp. at 2-6.) As a result, Defendant argues that this Court's ability to expunge is not a collateral matter and asks that this Court exercise its inherent power and expunge Defendant's record. (Def.'s Resp. at 2-6.)
Without proper jurisdiction, the Court may not rule on the merits of the case. Goldsmith v. Baltimore, 845 F.2d 61, 63-64 (4th Cir. 1989) (citing Johnson v. Town of Elizabethtown, 800 F.2d 404, 407 n.2 (4th Cir. 1986); Cook v. Georgetown Steel Corp., 770 F.2d 1272, 1274 (4th Cir. 1985)). Federal courts "possess only that power authorized by the Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree." Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377 (internal citations omitted).
In some narrow situations, courts have the statutory authority to expunge a criminal record. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 3607(c) (first offender under Controlled Substances Act). In this case, however, no statutory authority specifically grants a court the power to expunge a criminal record under 18 U.S.C. § 113 - the statute identified in the criminal information. Because no specific statutory basis exists for expungement here, the parties have focused on the ability of the Court to invoke its equitable powers through ancillary jurisdiction.
When a district court acquires jurisdiction over a case in its entirety, ancillary jurisdiction allows that court to hear collateral matters, incident to the full disposition of the case, "when necessary to allow it to vindicate its role as a tribunal." United States v. Mitchell, 683 F.Supp.2d 427, 429 (E.D. Va. 2010) (Ellis, J.) (quoting 13 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Edward H. Cooper & Richard D. Freer, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3523.2, at 213 (3d ed. 2008)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Supreme Court addressed the extent of federal court ancillary jurisdiction in Kokkonen, indicating that ancillary jurisdiction allows a federal court to hear "some matters (otherwise beyond their competence) that are incidental to other matters properly before them." 511 U.S. at 378-79. Generally, ancillary jurisdiction allows courts to hear these collateral matters in two specific situations: (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 379-80 (citing Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32 (1991); Baker v. Gold Seal Liquors, Inc., 417 U.S. 467, 469 n.1 (1974); Moore v. N.Y. Cotton Exch, 270 U.S. 593, 610 (1926); United States v. Hudson, 11 U.S. (7 Cranch) 32, 34 (1812)).
Before the Supreme Court decided Kokkonen in 1994, courts found that the ability to expunge was within their inherently equitable powers. See, e.g., United States v. Van Wagner, 746 F.Supp. 619, 620-21 (E.D. Va. 1990) (Ellis, J.). Indeed, the Fourth Circuit implicitly acknowledged as much in Allen v. Webster, by holding that a district court "did not abuse its equitable discretion in denying the requested relief of expungement." 742 F.2d 153, 155 (4th Cir. 1984). Since the Supreme Court's guidance on ancillary jurisdiction in Kokkonen, neither the Supreme Court nor the Fourth Circuit has directly addressed the jurisdiction to expunge a criminal record on equitable grounds.
Other Courts of Appeals and at least one district court within the Eastern District of Virginia, however, have addressed ancillary jurisdiction in expungement cases after the Supreme Court's decision in Kokkonen. See, e.g., United States v. Coloian, 480 F.3d 47, 52 (1st Cir. 2007) ("Thus, Kokkonen forecloses any ancillary jurisdiction to order expungement based on... equitable reasons."); United States v. Meyer, 439 F.3d 855, 862 (8th Cir. 2006) ("[I]n light of Kokkonen, we conclude that ancillary jurisdiction does not extend to expungement of a criminal conviction where the petitioner asserts solely equitable grounds."); Mitchell, 683 F.Supp.2d at 432-33 (finding that neither rationale for exercising ancillary jurisdiction set forth in Kokkonen applied to defendant's request to expunge); see also United States v. Rowlands, 451 F.3d 173, 179 (3d Cir. 2006) (affirming district court's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction over petition for expungement); United States v. Sumner, 226 F.3d 1005, 1014 (9th Cir. 2000) ("[A] district court's ancillary jurisdiction is limited to expunging the record of an unlawful arrest or conviction...."). As the First Circuit summarized, "[t]hese circuits have rejected the notion that a federal court's... inherent power' provides ancillary jurisdiction over equitable orders to expunge because such orders do not fit within Kokkonen's purposes for ancillary jurisdiction." Coloian, 480 F.3d at 51.
In United States v. Mitchell , Judge Ellis explained why the two rationales for exercising ancillary jurisdiction under Kokkonen generally do not exist in expungement cases. First, the facts relating to a defendant's arrest are "wholly separate and distinct from the equitable circumstances that defendant contends justify the expungement of his criminal record." Mitchell, 683 F.Supp.2d at 433. Second, expungement does not facilitate the court's ability to manage its proceedings, to effectuate its decrees or to vindicate its authority. Id. (quoting ...