On May 21st, in what was an unprecedented case and one of great interest to those following the need for criminal record sealing in New York, Federal Judge John Gleeson (EDNY) granted an order expunging the criminal record of a woman who he had sentenced 13 years ago. As reported and written about on the Collateral Consequences Resource Center website (https://ccresourcecenter.org/2015/05/28/federal-judge-expunges-conviction-to-avoid-collateral-consequences/) this case (which is garnering national attention) brought to light the collateral workplace consequences of a past conviction – as “Jane Doe” struggled nearly 20 years after the crime (a minor, non-violent offense) to secure, and keep, jobs in order to provide for her family.
In the case of Doe v. United States, Judge Gleeson discussed the “excessive and counterproductive employment consequences” of old convictions – noting how in this case, “Doe’s criminal record has prevented her from working, paying taxes, and caring for her family, and it poses a constant threat to her ability to remain a law-abiding member of society. It has forced her to rely on public assistance when she has the desire and the ability to work.” Noting that “nearly two decades have passed since her minor, nonviolent offense” he stated that “there is no justification for continuing to impose this disability on her” – sentencing her to “five years of probation supervision, not to a lifetime of unemployment.”
A home health aide, Doe had spent the last 13 years finding herself either unable to secure jobs due to her conviction for this minor, non-violent offense (health care fraud) that occurred 17 years ago – or unable to keep her job once subsequent background checks were done. Noting that “there will nevertheless be cases in which all reasonable employers would conclude that the conviction is no longer a meaningful consideration in determining suitability for employment if only they had the time and the resources to conduct a thorough investigation of the applicant or employee,” Judge Gleeson noted that he had done such an investigation and “I conclude that the public’s interest in Doe being an employed, contributing member of society so far outweighs its interest in her conviction being a matter of public record that the motion is granted and her conviction is expunged.”
This case, unprecedented in the federal courts, is an important development in the area of criminal record sealing and expungement of convictions for minor, non-violent offenses. In his decision, Judge Gleeson addressed many critical points concerning the collateral consequences of criminal convictions, and highlighted the problems facing deserving ex-offenders in securing and keeping jobs and being able to successfully reintegrate back into society. Noting that “Doe is one of 65 million Americans who have a criminal record and suffer the adverse consequences that result from such a record,” Judge Gleeson stressed that “[h]er case highlights the need to take a fresh look at policies that shut people out from the social, economic, and educational opportunities they desperately need in order to reenter society successfully.”
We are encouraged by this important development and decision by Judge Gleeson surrounding the expungement of federal convictions such as this one, and hopeful for the impact that this might have on helping to make criminal record sealing in New York State law a reality. As you know, New York remains one of the few states that has no criminal record sealing or expungement law applicable to the vast majority of adults. With this latest development on the federal level surrounding expungement of past federal convictions, and the national attention being given to this issue, we hope that our efforts to change the law on criminal record sealing in New York will make further progress this year.
To learn more about this case and read this important decision, click here: https://ccresourcecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Doe-v-US.pdf. In addition, for additional insight into the case and its impact, you can read more here.