M.D. Alabama Notes Split Re Whether a District Court has Ancillary Jurisdiction Over a Motion to Expunge Arrest Records

Per U.S. v. Paxton, Slip Copy, 2007 WL 2081483 (M.D.Ala . Jul 20, 2007) (NO. 3:99CR91-WHA):

The Eleventh Circuit has not addressed directly the specific issue of whether a district court has jurisdiction over a motion for expungement of arrest records and/or records of indictment. See United States v. Carson, 366 F.Supp.2d 1151, 1155 (M.D.Fla.2004) (finding that the Eleventh Circuit has published no opinions on expungement in general outside of the realm concerning the now-repealed "Youth Corrections Act"). A survey of case law across the circuits, however, indicates that jurisdiction typically is based on the concept of ancillary jurisdiction. Recently, after the Supreme Court narrowed the broad power of ancillary jurisdiction in Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375 (1994), a split among the circuits has developed regarding whether federal district courts have ancillary jurisdiction to determine matters of expungement related to criminal proceedings in those courts. See United States v. Coloian, 480 F.3d 47, 51-52 (1st Cir.2007) (providing a discussion of the circuit split in which the court cites several cases on each side of the issue).

Some circuits, including the First, Third, Eighth, and Ninth, find that, after Kokkonen, a district court does not have ancillary jurisdiction to consider a motion to expunge a criminal record based solely on equitable grounds. See Coloian, 480 F.3d at 52; United States v. Meyer, 439 F.3d 855, 860 (8th Cir.2006); United States v. Dunegan, 251 F.3d 477, 479 (3d Cir.2001); United States v. Sumner, 226 F.3d 1005, 1013 (9th Cir.2000). These circuits typically have found that a district court's ancillary jurisdiction only exists over such motions when expunging the record of an unlawful arrest or when necessary to ameliorate a clerical error. See, e.g., Sumner, 226 F.3d at 1013 ("[A] district court's ancillary jurisdiction is limited to expunging the record of an unlawful arrest or conviction, or to correcting a clerical error."). These circuits rely on the Supreme Court's explanation of ancillary jurisdiction in Kokkonen as instructive on this issue.

In Kokkonen, the Supreme Court stated that ancillary jurisdiction exists under two separate, but related, premises: "(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...." Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 379-380. Matters of expungement fall under the second purpose, if at all. Expungement of criminal records merely on equitable grounds, however, serves none of the purposes set forth by the Kokkonen court. See Sumner, 226 F.3d at 1014. Expungement does not enable a court to successfully manage proceedings, vindicate authority or effectuate decrees. Therefore, a district court does not have ancillary jurisdiction over matters of expungement simply based on equitable grounds.

This court agrees with the analysis set forth in these circuits. Despite the circuit split, this court is comfortable that the Eleventh Circuit would follow the post- Kokkonen theory discussed above and not the theory applied by other circuits not discussed. Kokkonen effectively narrowed the scope of ancillary jurisdiction. Applying the post- Kokkonen analysis, the court does not have ancillary jurisdiction over the motion for expungement in the present case.


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