COULD AN EXPUNGED RECORD EVER BE AVAILABLE IN A CIVIL COURT OR LAWSUIT?
Knowing the law isn’t as easy as it appears to be. Every time a legal case occurs the law can potentially change. To truly understand the law on any given subject you must know how it has been applied in your particular circumstances. The past interpretation of the law by a court is called “case law”. This short video explains how case law works: The case below answers the specific question below in straightforward language. If you need straightforward answers to your legal questions, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.
Pope By and For Juby v. Ransdell, 833 P.2d 965 (Kan. 1992).
This case addresses the following issue:
1. Could An Expunged Record Ever Be Available In A Civil Court Or Lawsuit?
This case explored the issue of whether an expunged record could ever be made available in a civil court or lawsuit. In exploring this issue, the court held that, generally speaking, an expunged record could not be made available in a civil court or lawsuit. Id. at 978. However, in an unusual case, where a defendant, whose former criminal convictions had been expunged, was directly involved in civil litigation, a district court might in its power permit the release of certain documents contained in an expunged file in order to achieve the ends of justice. Id.
The case in question involved a medical malpractice action brought on behalf of a minor (plaintiff) whose injuries allegedly resulted from negligence in the care the doctor (defendant) provided the plaintiff’s mother while she was in labor with him. Id. at 969. The mother was experiencing contractions and was admitted to the hospital on November 8, 1976. Id. The following day, the defendant performed an exam on the mother and induced labor. Id. The defendant then left the hospital and returned to his office. Id. While the defendant was gone, the nurses noticed decelerations of the fetal heartbeat. Id. After notifying the defendant, he prepared the mother for a C-section and delivered the plaintiff a few hours later. Id. at 970. The plaintiff alleged the defendant was negligent in caring for his mother. Id. Also, the plaintiff asserted that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff to suffer from a seizure disorder, be uncoordinated, and make little advancement in his psycho-motor development. Id. After trial, the jury returned a verdict finding no fault on the part of the defendant. Id. at 969. As a result, the plaintiff appealed claiming the trial court erred in improperly allowing the defendant to call into question the credibility of the mother (who was a witness) by using her expunged convictions of drug related crimes. Id.
The ultimate question this court had to answer was whether it was error for the trial court to allow the defendant to utilize the mother’s expunged convictions of drug related crimes in order to challenge her credibility as a witness. Id. at 976. The defendant’s purpose in using the mother’s drug related crimes was to imply the mother used drugs at the time of the pregnancy and that is what caused the plaintiff’s problems. Id. at 978. In reviewing the question, the court referenced a Kansas case which stated that courts have inherent powers over their official records. Id. Additionally, the court noted that in an unusual case, where a defendant, whose former criminal convictions had been expunged, was directly involved in civil litigation, a district court might in its power permit the release of certain documents contained in an expunged file in order to achiever the ends of justice. Id. However, in this case, the court found it was error to admit the expunged convictions themselves (as opposed to just certain documents in the expunged record). Id.
In sum, the court concluded that, in an usual case, a court could release certain documents from an expunged record in a civil court or lawsuit. Id. However, it would be an error to release the expunged convictions themselves in a civil court or lawsuit. Id.