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Bergman v. Caulk

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 3, 2019

James Salvatore Bergman, Appellant,
v.
Isanti County Sheriff Christopher Caulk, Respondent.

          Isanti County District Court File No. 30-CV-18-283

          Daniel Guerrero, Meshbesher & Spence, Ltd., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Jeffrey R. Edblad, Isanti County Attorney, Timothy C. Nelson, Assistant County Attorney, Cambridge, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Slieter, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Schellhas, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         I. Under 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(B)(ii) (2018), a person convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence," as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(A) (2018), is not considered convicted of such an offense when the conviction is expunged by a district court under its inherent authority, unless the expungement order expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.

         II. A sheriff lacks discretion to deny an applicant a permit to carry under Minn. Stat. §§ 624.713, subd. 1(12), .714, subd. 2(b) (2018), on the basis that the applicant's conviction of a misdemeanor domestic assault was expunged solely under a district court's inherent authority.

          OPINION

          DISSENTING, WORKE, JUDGE

         Appellant challenges a district court's denial of his petition for a writ of mandamus to compel a county sheriff to issue a permit to carry a pistol, arguing that the court erroneously concluded that his domestic-assault conviction was not expunged under federal law because a district court expunged it solely under its inherent authority. We reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         On January 25, 1996, appellant James Bergman was convicted of fifth-degree misdemeanor domestic assault. In 2007, Bergman petitioned a district court for expungement of his conviction. In an order issued on October 5, 2007, the court found that Bergman sought to expunge his conviction in order to possess a firearm for the purpose of hunting because federal law prohibited him from possessing a firearm. The court also found that "the benefits to Bergman of granting his request for expungement [were] commensurate with and outweigh[ed] any disadvantage to the public from the elimination of such records and any burden on th[e] Court in issuing, enforcing and monitoring an expungement order." Concluding that Bergman did not qualify for statutory expungement, "within [its] inherent authority," the court granted Bergman an "expungement of judicial records, pursuant to State v. C.A., 304 N.W.2d 353, 358 (Minn. 1981), in order to reduce or eliminate unfairness to an individual, even though the unfairness does not give rise to a constitutional dimension." The court ordered the sealing of all judicial records related to Bergman's misdemeanor domestic-assault conviction and stayed the order for 60 days "to allow any affected party to file an appeal." No party appealed the order.

         According to Bergman, starting in 2008, the Isanti County Sheriff had consistently granted him a permit to carry a pistol (carry permit). On December 18, 2017, Bergman applied to renew his carry permit. A newly elected county sheriff, respondent Isanti County Sheriff Christopher Caulk, denied Bergman's application because of his 1996 domestic-assault conviction. Bergman sought reconsideration by the sheriff, and the sheriff refused to reconsider his application. Bergman then petitioned the district court to issue a writ of mandamus to compel the sheriff to issue him a carry permit. In September 2018, the court denied Bergman's petition, concluding that he is disqualified from possessing a firearm because his domestic-assault conviction was not expunged under 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(B)(ii).

         This ...


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