Appeals court: Judge can't erase defendant's record

AP News
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Posted: Aug 11, 2016 7:49 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court said Thursday that it wouldn't be a bad idea to erase the criminal records of some people who've been successfully rehabilitated and it recommended that Congress take a look at the possibility.

Still, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision by a Brooklyn federal judge to do just that for a health care worker who lost jobs repeatedly after employers checked her criminal history and discovered a 1997 crime that led to a 2001 health care fraud conviction. She served five years of probation.

The three-judge Manhattan appeals court panel said the judge, John Gleeson, had no authority to wipe out her criminal record in May 2015 after she said the conviction was preventing her from getting or keeping a job as a home health aide.

In a ruling written by 2nd Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier, the appeals court said its finding that Gleeson had no authority to erase the woman's criminal record "says nothing about Congress's ability to provide for jurisdiction in similar cases in the future."

The 2nd Circuit noted that Congress had done so in other contexts and "it might consider doing so again for certain offenders" like the health care worker at issue in the Brooklyn case. It called the New York woman's plight unfortunate.

Gleeson had said the woman — who's listed only as Jane Doe in court papers — was guilty of "minor criminal conduct."

He wrote that the woman is among 65 million Americans with a criminal record who suffer as a result.

"Her 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 re-enter society successfully," Gleeson said.

The woman was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, before arriving in New York in 1983 at age 24. She became a U.S. citizen in 1989. Gleeson noted that the crime occurred while the woman was raising four children by herself on net monthly income of $783.

Bernard Udell, a lawyer for the woman, said he and his client were disappointed and were considering an appeal to the full 2nd Circuit.

"We thought we had a chance," he said. "We knew there was a possibility it would be reversed. We'll see what our next move will be."