United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SEAL
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
1995, Defendant Fred Hardy was convicted in the District of
Massachusetts of three federal firearm offenses. Presently
pending before the Court is Mr. Hardy's Motion to Seal
His Criminal Record. [ECF No. 151]. For the reasons set forth
herein, the Court DENIES the motion.
20, 1995, Mr. Hardy pleaded guilty in the District of
Massachusetts to three counts, including one count of
possession of a firearm as a felon, one count of possession
of ammunition as a felon, and one count of possession of an
unregistered firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); 26 U.S.C.
§ 5861(d). He was sentenced to 120 months of
incarceration and three years of supervised release.
affirmance of the Court's decision by the First Circuit
Court of Appeals, the case lay dormant until April 20, 2017,
when Mr. Hardy asked the Court to seal his related criminal
record. In his Motion to Seal, Mr. Hardy states that he had
been working as a driver for Uber and Lyft for the past
several months but that a recent criminal background check
performed by the companies returned information about his
conviction that prevented him from continuing that work. He
seeks to have his criminal record sealed in order to return
to working as a driver.
United States, there is “a presumption that the public
has a common-law right of access to judicial
documents.” In re Providence Journal Co., 293
F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2002) (citing Nixon v. Warner
Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597-98 (1978)).
“This presumption ‘stems from the premise that
public monitoring of the judicial system fosters the
important values of ‘quality, honesty and respect for
our legal system.'” United States v.
MasMarques, No. 09-10304-MLW, 2015 WL 5609957, at *2 (D.
Mass. Sept. 22, 2015) (quoting Siedle v. Putnam
Investments, Inc., 147 F.3d 7, 9-10 (1st Cir. 1998)).
The public right of access is not absolute, and a court
considering a motion to seal can consider “important
countervailing interests” and “must carefully
balance the competing interests that are at stake.”
Siedle, 147 F.3d at 10. The Court has
“considerable leeway, ” however, in making
determinations of whether to seal judicial records.
Mr. Hardy asks the Court to seal his record so that he can
continue working for Uber and Lyft. He has failed to show
that his interests in sealing the record outweigh the default
presumption that judicial records are open to the public. As
the court noted in MasMarques, sealing criminal
records “solely because the record has an adverse
effect on defendant's livelihood . . . would vitiate the
presumptive public right of access.” 2015 WL 5609957,
at *2. “If courts were to allow the stigma resulting
from the public record of a case to outweigh the public right
of access, then virtually all criminal records would be
sealed.” Id. The interest in the public right
of access cannot be outweighed solely by an adverse effect on
Mr. Hardy's ability to work for a particular company.
extent that Mr. Hardy's motion to seal the entire case
record could be construed as a motion to expunge his criminal
record, the motion must also be denied. See
MasMarques, 2015 WL 5609957, at *2 (analyzing motion to
seal and expunge separately); United States v.
Easton, No. 00-cr-40036-DHH, 2013 WL 2302111, at *1 n.1
(D. Mass. May 23, 2013) (analyzing “motion to seal
and/or expunge” as the functional equivalent of motion
to expunge). “With respect to criminal records,
expunction refers to the process of sealing or destroying the
record of a criminal conviction after expiration of a certain
time.” United States v. Coloian, 480 F.3d 47,
48 n.2 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing United States v.
Johnson, 941 F.2d 1102, 1111 (10th Cir. 1991)).
Court does not have the jurisdiction to expunge Mr.
Hardy's criminal record on equitable grounds. The subject
matter jurisdiction of federal district courts extends to
“all offenses against the laws of the United
States.” 18 U.S.C. § 3231. Federal law
specifically provides for expungement of criminal records
only in narrow circumstances, such as when the public record
is inaccurate or when convictions are overturned. See
Coloian, 480 F.3d at 49 n.4. Federal courts have also
allowed the expungement of criminal records of arrests or
prosecutions that violated federal statutes or the
Constitution. Id. Mr. Hardy, however, does not rely
on any statutory or constitutional basis in his motion; thus,
he appears to ground his motion only in equitable
considerations. The Court does not have ancillary
jurisdiction to expunge Mr. Hardy's record on equitable
grounds. See Id. at 51-52 (holding that district
court lacked the jurisdiction “to consider
[defendant's] request for expungement of his criminal
record on equitable grounds”); see also
Easton, 2013 WL 2302111, at *1 (relying on
Coloian and holding that court lacked jurisdiction
to expunge record); MasMarques, 2015 WL 5609957, at
Mr. Hardy's Motion to Seal His Criminal Record ...