In his May order, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson nodded to “a growing recognition that the adverse employment consequences of old convictions are excessive and counter-productive.”
He cited a 2011 letter by then Attorney General Eric Holder pressing state attorneys general to reassess state laws that limit the job prospects of ex-offenders. That same year, Mr. Holder established a council of 20 government agencies whose goal is “to remove federal barriers to successful reentry, so that motivated individuals — who have served their time and paid their debts — are able to compete for a job, attain stable housing, support their children and their families, and contribute to their communities.”
“If the government is trying to look out for people in these situations, why take this case of all cases?” said Brooklyn lawyer Bernard H. Udell, who is representing the woman whose conviction Judge Gleeson expunged.
A spokeswoman at the Justice Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn had no immediate comment.
In 2002, Judge Gleeson sentenced the woman, who is identified in court documents by the pseudonym Jane Doe, to five years of probation for feigning injury in a staged car crash and falsely claiming to have received medical services as part of a scheme to collect insurance money.
She landed several jobs as a health-care aide since her conviction but lost them after her record came to light in background checks, according to her petition. Judge Gleeson cited several factors in support of his decision to expunge her record, including the 17 years that have elapsed since she committed a crime, the trouble she has had keeping jobs, her age (mid-50s) and the nonviolent nature of her crime.
The Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office opposed the petition in Judge Gleeson’s court, saying in a January legal brief that employers in the health-care industry were entitled to know about her criminal past. The brief said expungement should be used only in extreme circumstances, citing cases involving illegal arrests and police misconduct.
The appeal places the case in front of the Manhattan-based Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Federal judge’s extraordinary expungement order will be appealed
The Justice Department spearheads the federal government’s efforts to help people convicted of crimes return to society after paying their dues, but a case in Brooklyn is putting its views to the test.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York signaled Friday that it will appeal a rare order by a federal judge expunging the fraud conviction of a health-care aide and mother of four who said her efforts to hold down a job have been sabotaged by her criminal record.
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