This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ' 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Douglas James Ranthum,
Filed July 30, 1996
St. Louis County District Court
File No. K884616273
Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Appellant)
Alan L. Mitchell, St. Louis County Attorney, Mark S. Rubin, Assistant County Attorney, 100 N. 5th Avenue West, #501, Duluth, MN 55802 (for Appellant)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for Respondent)
Don L. Bye, 2802 West 1st Street, Duluth, MN 55802 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Norton, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Stone, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The state appeals from the district court's order granting in part and denying in part Ranthum's motion for expungement, destruction, and sealing of his criminal sexual conduct conviction records. The state argues that: (1) Minn. Stat. ' 299C.11 does not apply in this case, and (2) the district court improperly used its inherent power to seal records. We reverse.
On September 11, 1984, appellant Douglas James Ranthum was charged with three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. At the time, Ranthum was an elementary school teacher in Duluth. The victims were his students. According to the state, the Duluth newspaper printed a story about the charges.
Ranthum pleaded guilty to the first and third counts. He was sentenced to concurrent sentences of 21 months and 26 months, stayed for a period of four years probation. The conditions of probation were that Ranthum provide the school district with films and cards to be paid for by him, that he give $500 to the Good Touch/Bad Touch Program, and that he undergo an evaluation and complete whatever program was necessary. Ranthum did complete treatment.
Eleven years later, Ranthum moved for expungement of his convictions. The district court issued an order granting in part and denying in part his motion. The court ordered that: (1) all records in the court administrator's office, sheriff's department and police department and probation office be sealed; (2) the records were not to be unsealed "or the information contained therein divulged" until further order of the court; (3) all files, records, and computer data in the Arrowhead Regional Corrections Service, the St. Louis County Attorney's Office, and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension be sealed until further order of the court; and (4) "this Defendant shall not be held under any provision of any law to be guilty of perjury or otherwise giving a false statement by failure to recite or acknowledge his arrest or treatment relating to this case in response to any inquiry made of him for any purpose." The court stated:
The Court is familiar with the circumstances surrounding the original plea in 1984. The circumstances were far from egregious and minimal at best. However, since that time this Plaintiff has been involved in psychiatric counseling. He has taught in schools and is an excellent educator. The school systems would retain him except for his record. This is the only blot on an otherwise clear record.
The Court has been furnished with recommendations from his psychiatrist, who states categorically he is no risk in an unsupervised environment. His two supervising probation officers agree with this, one which is highly qualified in this field.
His fellow educators make these recommendations as to his competency. The Attorney General, who handled the situation, states that under the circumstances he would not recommend the revocation of the Defendant's teaching license. The State Board of Education has relicensed the Defendant; and his employer, the Fond du Lac Education Division, gives him the highest recommendations saying that the only reason for his termination was because his record required them to do so.
This Court feels that the sealing of the records and the Defendant not having to state that he was convicted of a crime would accomplish what will become a benefit to society. The public's need to know has been satisfied by the news coverage in 1984. The Defendant has become a useful and productive part of society and should be permitted to remain so.
This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
I. Minn. Stat. ' 299C.11
The state argues that the district court's order is improper under Minn. Stat. ' 299C.11 (1994). That statute provides that "[u]pon the determination of all pending criminal actions or proceedings in favor of the arrested person," the arrested person can require the return of all identification data unless it is established "that the arrested person has been convicted of any felony, * * * within the period of ten years immediately preceding such determination." Id. The state correctly notes that the proceedings in this case were not resolved in Ranthum's favor. However, the district court did not rely on this statutory provision. Instead, it based its order upon its inherent powers.
II. Inherent Power
The state argues that the district court erred in using its inherent authority to issue the order in this case.
Courts have inherent authority to expunge records "in some kinds of cases." State v. C.A., 304 N.W.2d 353, 357 (Minn. 1981).
One aspect of this authority is the power to expunge when expungement is "relief necessary to prevent serious infringement of constitutional rights." Id. at 358. Because Ranthum does not allege any violation of constitutional rights, this aspect of the court's inherent authority cannot support the district court's order.
Another facet of inherent authority is the power to issue expungement orders affecting court records and agents of the court "[u]nder appropriate circumstances." Id. The test is whether the relief the party requests is "`necessary to the performance of the judicial function as contemplated in our state constitution.'" Id. (quoting In re Clerk of Lyon County Courts' Compensation, 308 Minn. 172, 181, 241 N.W.2d 781, 786 (1976)).
Where the denial of a constitutional right is not involved the court must decide whether the expungement will yield a benefit to the petitioner commensurate with the disadvantages to the public from the elimination of the record and the burden on the court in issuing, enforcing, and monitoring an expungement order.
C.A., 304 N.W.2d at 358. Because the authority only extends to "unique judicial functions," courts must proceed cautiously in order to respect the "equally unique authority of the executive and legislative branches of government." Id. at 358-59.
We do not believe that expungement is appropriate for all those who successfully complete their probationary period. In cases in which guilt is technical or questionable, such a remedy may be appropriate under a court's inherent power. This is not one of those cases. Affirming the district court's order in this case would be tantamount to an invitation to expunge in many other similar cases. This we are not prepared to do.
If we were to affirm the trial court, Ranthum would be free to apply for teaching positions--and the school board and the community might have no knowledge of his prior convictions for criminal sexual conduct. We believe that employment as a teacher carries with it a higher standard of conduct than may be the case in other fields of endeavor.  Enabling Ranthum to be dishonest about or to omit his past convictions when applying for a job would not only be unfair to the community, it would also be unfair to other applicants for a teaching position. Unlike for Ranthum, all their past transgressions would be an open book. Thus, we conclude that the benefit to Ranthum is not commensurate with disadvantages to the public if there were to be an elimination of his record and reverse the district court's order.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, ' 10.
The state notes that a new statute (effective January 1, 1996) requires school hiring authorities to request criminal background information on a potential employee before hiring. See Minn. Stat. ' 120.1045 (Supp. 1995). This statute, while not a basis for our decision, shows a legislative intent that schools be aware of the criminal backgrounds of those who would work with children.