Townsend v. U.S.
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge J. Frederick Motz on 6/12/2017. (c/m 6/12/17)(kr2, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil Action No. JFM-17-1 005
(Related Crim. Case JFM-88-409)
On April 10,2017, Marion Townsend filed a letter with this court asking that his 1988 conviction
for conversion of property pledged to the Farm Credit Agency under 18 U.S.c. ~ 658 be expunged. ECF
1 (civil case); Req. Expunge, ECF 13 (crim. case). For the reasons outlined below, that request is
DENIED and this case DISMISSED.
On February IS, 1989, Mr. Townsend pleaded guilty to Count One of the indictment
charging him with conversion of property pledged to the Farm Credit Agency in violation of 18
See Paper NO.8, United States v. Townsend, Criminal No. 88-cr-409 (D. Md.). On
1989, the court sentenced him to a year and one day. Id. Mr. Townsend indicates that
has not "been in trouble with the law" since he completed the sentence in this case. He indicates
that he enjoys teaching his grandchildren about hunting as hunting is a way of life and common
form of recreation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Id. He states that in November of 2016,
a new gun, he was advised
from the United States
Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that his conviction in this case
prohibits him from possessing a firearm. He asks that his criminal case be expunged or modified
so that he may again lawfully possess firearms. Id.
There is no federal statute or regulation that gives district courts general authority to
expunge convictions. There are a handful of federal statutes that give district courts specific
authority to expunge convictions, but those statutes apply only in very narrow circumstances,
none of which are present here. See 5 U.S.C.
public records); 18 U.S.C.
552a(d)(2) (allowing amendment of inaccurate
(allowing expungement of certain federal drug-possession
In the absence of an authorizing statute, a federal court has a limited equitable power to
expunge convictions, and that power can be used only in "exceptional circumstances." Allen v.
Webster, 742 F.2d 153, 155 (4th Cir. 1984); see also United States v. Noonan, 906 F.2d 952,
956-57 (3rd Cir. 1990) (explaining that "a federal court has the inherent power to expunge an
Thus, courts have found that expungement of a conviction is appropriate if
"necessary to preserve basic legal rights," Shipp v. Todd, 568 F.2d 133, 143 (9th Cir. 1978)
(quoting United Stales v. McMains, 540 F.2d 387, 389 (8th Cir. 1976», such as when the
conviction was obtained unconstitutionally or as a result of government misconduct, or when the
record is simply inaccurate. See Allen, 742 F.2d at 154 (finding expungement
because the statute under which the defendant was tried was constitutional
and there was no
evidence of "irregularity" in the proceedings); United States v. Scott, 793 F.2d 117, 118 (5th Cir.
1986) (holding that a district court cannot expunge a conviction when "the validity of the original
conviction is unquestioned");
United States v. Gary, 206 F. Supp. 2d 741, 741 (D. Md. 2002)
(explaining that the court's power to expunge was "limited to [instances of] an unlawful arrest or
conviction, or to correct a clerical error") (emphasis in original).
In this case, Mr. Townsend
makes no showing that his conviction
unconstitutionally or as a result of government misconduct, or that the record is merely a clerical
error. Instead, he asks this court to expunge his conviction so that he may possess firearms with
which he may hunt. However, Mr. Townsend pleaded guilty to the crime, thus underscoring the
validity of the conviction.
Accordingly. there are no exceptional circumstances to provide an
appropriate basis for this court to expunge his conviction.
For the reasons stated above, Mr. Townsend's Motion to Expunge is DENIED and this
case is DISMISSED.
DATE: P/v/} 1
United States District Judge
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