Dakota County District Court File Nos. 19-K2-96-001741 & 19-K1-96-002623 Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and
James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Shirley A. Leko, Assistant County Attorney, Hastings, Minnesota (for appellant)
A.S.E., Hinsdale, Illinois (pro se respondent)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Schellhas, Judge.
A district court may not exercise its inherent authority to expunge criminal records held in the judicial branch on the grounds that it will yield a benefit to the petitioner commensurate with societal burdens without making findings on the record analyzing the factors outlined in State v. H.A., 716 N.W.2d 360 (Minn.App. 2006).
In these consolidated expungement appeals, the state argues that (1) respondent is not entitled to expungement of records held by the judicial branch; and (2) the district court's inherent authority does not extend to expungement of executive-branch records. Because the district court exceeded the scope of its inherent authority in ordering expungement of executive-branch records and failed to make sufficient findings to support expungement of judicial-branch records, we reverse the expungement orders and remand for findings.
In September 1996, respondent A.S.E. pleaded guilty to felony theft by wrongfully obtaining welfare benefits in violation of Minn. Stat. § 256.98, subd. 1 (1994). In March 1997, a jury found respondent guilty of misdemeanor fifth-degree assault in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 1 (1996). A.S.E. was discharged from probation for each offense in 1999.
In October 2012, respondent filed two petitions requesting expungement of the convictions. Respondent argued that retention of the records infringed upon her constitutional rights and that the benefits to her in terms of employment, educational licensure, and housing outweighed the burdens expungement would impose on the public and the court.
Following a hearing in December 2012, the district court issued orders granting each petition, holding that there was "clear and convincing evidence that sealing the record would yield a benefit to petitioner commensurate with the disadvantages to the public and public safety of: (1) sealing the record; and (2) burdening the court and public authorities to issue, enforce, and monitor an expungement order." The district court made no findings to support this determination either at the hearing or in its orders, relying on a template order for expungement. The orders sealed all judicial- and executive-branch records relating to the convictions. The state timely appealed both orders, and we subsequently granted respondent's motion to consolidate the appeals.
I. Did the district court exceed its inherent authority when it expunged executive-branch records of ...