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CIRCUIT TAKES BACK JUDGE GLEESON’S GIFT
In his final days on the Eastern District of New York bench before joining a white-shoe Wall Street law firm, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson invented a blueprint for helping people convicted of federal crimes secure jobs. Yesterday, the 2nd Circuit undid his efforts.
Last March Judge Gleeson issued a “federal certificate of rehabilitation” to a nurse with a 13-year-old fraud conviction. The defendant – identified only as “Jane Doe” — had been shut out of nursing jobs because of her conviction for a car insurance scam. She served 15 months for it 12 years ago.
When we reported on this case a few months ago, we noted that the Justice Department was appealing the decision. In a decision handed down yesterday, the Circuit concluded that Gleeson’s court lacked jurisdiction to hear the expungement motion.
Still, the appellate court was sympathetic even while being rather chary. “The unfortunate consequences of Doe’s conviction compel us to offer a few additional observations,” the Court wrote. “First, our holding that the District Court had no authority to expunge the records of a valid conviction in this case says nothing about Congress’s ability to provide for jurisdiction in similar cases in the future. As described above, Congress has done so in other contexts. It might consider doing so again for certain offenders who, like Doe, want and deserve to have their criminal convictions expunged after a period of successful rehabilitation. Second, only a few months ago (while this appeal was pending), the Attorney General of the United States recognized and aptly described the unfortunate lifelong toll that these convictions often impose on low-level criminal offenders… “[T]oo often,” the Attorney General said, “the way that our society treats Americans who have come into contact with the criminal justice system… turns too many terms of incarceration into what is effectively a life sentence.”
Doe v. United States, Case No. 15‐1967‐cr (2nd Cir. Aug, 11, 2016)