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New Hampshire Prisoner May Use Non-Mutual Offensive Collateral Estoppel

On January 17, 2006, a federal district court in New Hampshire ruled that a prisoner may use non-mutual offensive collateral estoppels for facts established in another prisoner's lawsuit to prove that jail conditions were governed by official policy, custom, or practice.

Antonio King, a Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, jail prisoner moved in federal district court to have some statements of fact that were based upon the jury's verdict and appellate decision in another prisoner's lawsuit read as part of his jury instructress. The defendant jail officials, two of whom were sued in their individual capacities and the rest of whom were sued in their official capacities, argued that non-mutual offensive collateral estoppels could not be used against the government. The court overruled that argument.

The defendants also argued that Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) precluded the use of statements that were about conduct against the other prisoner. King failed to address this argument and the district court ruled that all but one of the statements were extraneous conduct that could not be used.

The remaining statement was that "an official policy, custom, or practice at the jail governed the conditions of confinement in Unit 2B between July 14 and August 9 of 2002." This tracked a jury finding in the other case that the conditions of confinement were imposed pursuant to a policy, custom or practice and an appellate court decision that stated "the conditions of confinement were apparent to all and their risks were readily apparent." Because "the issue of whether the conditions of confinement on Unit 28 were imposed pursuant to an official policy, custom, or practice is the same in both cases, and the issue was litigated both at trial and on appeal in" the other prisoner's case, the issue was previously determined by a final, binding judgment. Therefore, the court granted the motion with respect to the statement the conditions of confinement and an official policy, custom, or practice. King was represented by Concord attorney Michael Sheehan. See: King v. Rivas, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2853.

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Related legal case

King v. Rivas