United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
K. MOON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Norman K. Moon This case is presently before the Court upon
Defendant's motion for expungement (docket no. 359).
Because the Court lacks jurisdiction to rule on
Mettetal's claim, his motion will be denied.
was convicted by a jury in July 1998 for possessing a toxin
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 175 and for possessing false
identification documents in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1028(a)(3). The Fourth Circuit overturned Mettetal's
conviction because the evidence used at trial against him
"should have been excluded as the fruit of [an] unlawful
arrest." United States v. Mettetal, 213 F.3d
634, 2000 WL 530330, at *6 (4th Cir. May 3, 2000)
remand, the district court again admitted the evidence
against Mettetal, reasoning that it was admissible under the
"good faith" exception. Mett was convicted in 2001,
but the Fourth Circuit again overturned the conviction,
finding that all evidence discovered as a result of
Mettetal's unlawful arrest was inadmissible. See
United States v. Mettetal, 48 Fed.Appx. 895, 897 (4th
United States filed a motion to dismiss the indictment
against Mett on December 2, 2002, and this Court granted the
motion on December 10, 2002.
asks the Court to expunge his criminal record "and
should also order the FBI to expunge/correct its criminal
records . . . ." Docket No. 359, at 2. Mett emphasizes
that he has no other convictions and that it has been 20
years since he was first unlawfully arrested. Mett claims
"he continues to be harassed by the local medical
community and has been unable to obtain hospital privileges
due to the existence of adverse information on his
record." Id. He has also been denied the right
to acquire a handgun license in Tennessee, because he claims
his "FBI record makes no mention of the fact that the
conviction was overturned and the charges subsequently
initial matter, the Court must determine whether it has
jurisdiction to decide Mettetal's claim. Where a party
seeks to adjudicate in federal court, the party "must
demonstrate the federal court's jurisdiction over the
matter." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs.,
Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005). Otherwise, without
jurisdiction, a court may not rule on the merits of the
claim. See 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)).
In determining whether the Court has jurisdiction, it must
bear in mind that federal courts "possess only that
power authorized by the Constitution and statute, which is
not to be expanded by judicial decree." Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)
(internal citations omitted).
have the statutory power to expunge documents relating to a
criminal charge in only narrow situations not applicable
here. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 3607(c) (first
offender under Controlled Substances Act). Accordingly,
Congress has not directly provided federal district courts
with jurisdiction to expunge records for equitable reasons,
and "the absence of explicit jurisdictional
authorization is notable in light of Congress's decision
to provide for an expungement remedy in other narrowly and
specifically defined circumstances not applicable here."
United States v. Mitchell, 683 F.Supp.2d 427, 432
(E.D. Va. 2010). Moreover, "[t]here is no dispute that
the power to expunge federal criminal convictions solely on
equitable grounds is [not] explicitly authorized by the
Constitution . . . ." Id. at 429.
the Supreme Court has held that district courts may, in some
circumstances, have ancillary jurisdiction over a claim,
which grants jurisdiction to district courts over "some
matters (otherwise beyond their competence) that are
incidental to other matters properly before them."
Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 378-79; see also 13
Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Edward H. Cooper &
Richard D. Freer, Federal Practice and Procedure
§ 3523.2, at 213 (3d ed. 2008) (ancillary jurisdiction
exists where a district court "acquires jurisdiction of
a case or controversy in its entirety, and, as an incident to
the full disposition of the matter, may hear collateral
proceedings when necessary to allow it to vindicate its role
as a tribunal.").
Supreme Court in Kokkonen clarified the scope of
ancillary jurisdiction, concluding that it exists in only two
circumstances: (1) where necessary "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." Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at
the Supreme Court decided Kokkonen in 1994, some
courts found that they had the equitable power to expunge
court records. See, e.g., United States v. Van
Wagner, 746 F.Supp. 619, 620-21 (E.D. Va. 1990). Since
Kokkonen, neither the Supreme Court nor the Fourth
Circuit have "directly addressed the jurisdiction to
expunge a criminal record on equitable grounds."
United States v. Taylor, Crim. No. 3:12mj230, 2014
WL 1713485, at *2 (E.D. Va. April 29, 2014) (unpublished).
Courts of Appeals have generally found that Kokkonen
prevents courts from exercising jurisdiction over equitable
expungement motions. 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 ...