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Criminal Law


Don’t Lose Hope While the Maryland rule excluding


convictions as


competent evidence of the underlying facts still survives, there is still a sound legal basis by which the prepared practitioner can try to use a prior conviction in a subsequent civil case. Non- Mutual Offensive Collateral Estoppel has been recognized in neighboring jurisdictions, and the Federal Courts. Tis doctrine renders the facts of an underlying conviction concluded in a subsequent civil case. Te doctrine of collateral estoppel bars a party from


relitigating an issue of fact or law determined against that party in an earlier action, even if the second action differs significantly from the first one. Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 153, 99 S.Ct. 970, 59 L.Ed.2d 210 (1979). Collateral Estoppel applies when the party asserting it establishes that:


(1) the issue sought to be precluded is identical to one previously litigated; (2) the issue must have been actually determined in the prior proceeding; (3) determination of the issue must have been a critical and necessary part of the decision in the prior proceeding; (4) the prior judgment must be final and valid; and (5) the party against whom estoppel is asserted must have had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the previous forum.


Sedlack v. Braswell Services Group, Inc., 134 F.3d 219, 224 (4th Cir.1998). Focusing on estoppel issues, District of Columbia law stands opposite the Maryland rule and allows a prior criminal conviction to have offence preclusive effect. See Ross v. Lawson, 395 A.2d 54 (1978 D.C.)(finding a prior criminal conviction for assault conclusive on liability in subsequent civil claim). “Despite our respect for the Maryland courts, we find its rule unpersuasive; and we note that in this jurisdiction at least three trial judges in civil actions have held that a prior criminal conviction may conclusively bar relitigation of an issue determined in the criminal case.” Id. At 55. D.C. Federal Courts follow the same rule, though based on different precedent. See Hinton v. Shaw Pittman Potts & Trowbridge, 257 F.Supp.2d 96 (2003)(citing United States v. Uzzell, 648 F.Supp.1362 (D.D.C. 1986)(other citations omitted)). However, D.C. still prevents a pre-paid traffic fine from being determinative on any issue of liability. Johnson v. Leuthongchack, 772 A.2d 249 (D.C. 2001). Federal Courts in Maryland clearly apply the doctrine


in reliance on the federal principles. See Neufeld v. City of Baltimore, 820 F.Supp. 963 (D.Md.1983)(involving criminal convictions relating to installation of satellite equipment); Securities and Exchange Commission v. Reznick, 604 F.Supp.2d 773 (D.Md. 2009)(citations omitted)(concerning subsequent suit by SEC after related criminal charges).


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