David Rowlands, a New Jersey public official, was convicted of several criminal offenses for accepting a bribe. He was sentenced to prison and released in 1983. In 1990, he sought reinstatement of his teaching certificate which was revoked due to the convictions. The State Board of Examiners declined to reinstate or recertify Rowlands because the convictions had not been expunged.
Rowland then sought expungement of his criminal record in federal court. The district court “dismissed the petition, concluding that neither its equitable powers nor the All Writs Act” of 28 U.S.C. § 1651 “provided it with jurisdiction over Rowland’s petition.” He appealed.
The Third Circuit agreed, holding the court had inherent jurisdiction “over petitions for expungement only when the validity of the underlying criminal proceeding is challenged. Because Rowlands has not attacked the validity of the underlying conviction,” the Court rejected his contention that it had “inherent jurisdiction over his petition for expungement.”
The appellate court also rejected Rowland’s “alternative contention that the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, grants federal district courts the legal authority to expunge the record of a legal and valid criminal conviction.” The Court of Appeals found this argument “unavailing,” and stated the “All Writs Act does nothing to alter” its conclusion. See: United States v. Rowlands, 451 F.3d 173 (3rd Cir. 2006), cert. denied.
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