Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Roos v. Red (Cal. Ct. App. - June 28, 2005)

Who doesn't love nonmutual offensive issue preclusion? I do, anyway. It's been the subject of several of the exams I've given in my first-year Civil Procedure class, and also an important topic in a case that I argued a little while ago in a federal district court in Massachusetts. Plus, it's an interesting area, and one with a fancy name. So maybe that's why I got a little misty-eyed when I read this case. It brought me back to those heady days teaching students about the intricacies of res judicata. Unlike the lazy days of summer, in which I do nothing but sit back and eat bon-bons all day long. Ah, academia. I love ya.

Anyway, Justice Wood's opinion is written pretty simply; indeed, is a decent introductory primer to the topic of res judicata as a whole. The central issue here is whether the court should give offensive preclusive effect to a finding of wilfulness in bankruptcy court. (The facts: Red killed several people with his car, filed bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court found that he wilfully ran over his victims and hence that his debts to them were not dischargeable, and the victims tried to use this finding offensively to preclude Red from arguing in their state court wrongful death actions that he was not responsible for their deaths.) Defendant principally argued that the court shouldn't give preclusive effect because he didn't have the right to a jury trial in bankruptcy court, unlike his jury trial right in the state court wrongful death actions. But Justice Wood properly rejects this argument, as well as Red's ancillary arguments.

The opinion provides a good overview of Parklane Hoisery and SEC v. Monarch, two cases that we typically read in the first year. Worth a read for anyone interested in res judicata, studying for the Bar, or doing well in a first-year exam in Civ Pro.