October 15, 2013
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
MELVIN ROBERT ANDERSON (51), et al., Defendants.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT MELVIN ROBERT ANDERSON'S MOTION TO EXPUNGE
IRMA E. GONZALEZ, District Judge.
On July 24, 2013, Defendant Melvin Robert Anderson delivered a letter to this Court requesting that his "record/conviction" be expunged. The conviction that Mr. Anderson seeks to expunge arises from a charge brought in May 1985 to which he pled guilty for knowingly and intentionally possessing cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 844, a misdemeanor under federal law. Because of his conviction, the California Department of Justice recently prohibited Mr. Anderson from purchasing a firearm. Mr. Anderson now moves to expunge that conviction in order to purchase a firearm.
A defendant who seeks expungement requests "the judicial editing of history." United States v. Crowell , 374 F.3d 790, 792 (9th Cir. 2004) (citing Rodgers v. Slaughter , 469 F.2d 1084, 1085 (5th Cir. 1972)). In general, when a defendant moves to expunge records, he asks that the court destroy or seal the records of the fact of the defendant's conviction and not the conviction itself. Id . "Accordingly, expungement, without more, does not alter the legality of the previous conviction and does not signify that the defendant was innocent of the crime to which he pleaded guilty.'" Id . (quoting Dickerson v. New Banner Inst., Inc. , 460 U.S. 103, 121-22 (1983)).
The Ninth Circuit recognizes two sources of authority by which courts may expunge records of a criminal conviction: statutes and the court's inherent authority. Crowell , 374 F.3d at 793. "By statute, Congress has set the conditions by which the courts may expunge records of federal convictions in particular cases." Id . If no such statute exists granting the court authority to expunge a particular conviction, courts may utilize their inherent authority. See id.
"Congress has not expressly granted to the federal courts a general power to expunge criminal records." Crowell , 374 F.3d at 794. However, the Ninth Circuit has recognized that "federal courts have inherent authority to expunge criminal records in appropriate and extraordinary cases." Id . In criminal proceedings, "district courts possess ancillary jurisdiction to expunge criminal records. That jurisdiction flows out of the congressional grant of jurisdiction to hear cases involving offenses against the United States pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3231." Id . (quoting United States v. Sumner , 226 F.3d 1005, 1014 (9th Cir. 2000)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under that authority, district courts do not have the power "to expunge a record of a valid arrest and conviction solely for equitable considerations" because "the expungement of the record of a valid arrest and conviction usurps the powers that the framers of the Constitution allocated to Congress, the Executive, and the states." Id . Accordingly, "a district court's ancillary jurisdiction is limited to expunging the record of an unlawful arrest or conviction, or to correcting a clerical error." Id.
According to Mr. Anderson, as a part of the plea agreement that he entered into in 1985, he was allowed to keep his real-estate license and stock-brokerage license, but surrendered his "Guns and Passport." He believed that these would be returned to him once he pled guilty, and after he pled guilty, these items were eventually returned. He also believed that after completing the agreed-upon three-years probation, his conviction would automatically convert to an expunged record. But it did not.
Mr. Anderson explains that he has taken various measures to fortify his property-including fencing his 3-acre property with a "high security 6 foot fence"-"[b]ecause of perceived dangers to [his] family from Mexico." His wife purchased a shotgun and a "45acp hand gun, at [his] son's direction, " but because "[t]he 45 is a mess for her, " Mr. Anderson bought her a "more stable 22 hand gun." But he was ultimately prohibited from completing the firearms purchase.
At an unspecified time, Mr. Anderson tried to purchase a "22 hand gun" for his wife, but the California Department of Justice ("DOJ") prohibited the firearms dealer from selling a firearm to Mr. Anderson. The California DOJ advised the dealer that records indicated that Mr. Anderson is "not eligible to own/possess firearms, " and instructed the dealer to "not release the firearm to the purchaser." (Firearm Notice (emphasis in original).) The California DOJ added that "[p]ersuant [sic] to Penal Code section 26815, [the dealer is] hereby required to make available to the purchaser the DOJ Prohibited Persons Notice Form and Power of Attorney for Firearms Relinquishment, Sale, or Disposal, form BOF 110." (Id.) Mr. Anderson does not mention whether the firearms dealer fulfilled that obligation.
Mr. Anderson adds that he has "been clean and sober since 1985, " has been married since 1987, now with two children, and has "been involved in many civic and humanitarian projects." He attaches photos and other documents to show the positive direction of his life since his 1985 conviction.
Though the Court recognizes and commends Mr. Anderson for his many accomplishments, under Crowell, the Court does not have the power "to expunge a record of a valid arrest and conviction solely for equitable considerations." Crowell , 374 F.3d at 794. Instead, it is "limited to expunging the record of an unlawful arrest or conviction, or to correcting a clerical error." Id . Collateral consequences, such as the ability to purchase a firearm, are insufficient to warrant relief. See Sumner , 226 F.3d at 1015 (holding 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 such as enhancing employment opportunities); Ray v. United States , 943 F.2d 57 (10th Cir. 1991) (Table) (affirming district court's decision to deny expungement where conviction records restricted the defendant's activities, such as purchasing a firearm). There is no suggestion that Mr. Anderson's conviction was in any way unlawful or invalid, or that the there was any clerical error. See Crowell , 374 F.3d at 794. Though Mr. Anderson shows that he will be inconvenienced by his conviction in that it impedes his ability to purchase a firearm, the Court cannot grant expungement for that reason. See id.
In light of the foregoing, the Court DENIES Mr. Anderson's motion to expunge.
IT IS SO ORDERED.