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  • Res judicata

    Res judicata (Latin for "a matter [already] judged") is, in both civil law and common law legal systems, a case in which there has been a final judgment and is no longer subject to appeal. The term is also used to refer to the doctrine meant to bar relitigation of such cases between the same parties, which is different between the two legal systems.

    Once a final judgment has been handed down in a lawsuit, subsequent judges who are confronted with a suit that is identical to or substantially the same as the earlier one will apply the res judicata doctrine to preserve the effect of the first judgment. This is to prevent injustice to the parties of a case supposedly finished, but perhaps mostly to avoid unnecessary waste of resources in the court system. Res judicata does not merely prevent future judgments from contradicting earlier ones, but also prevents them from multiplying judgments, so a prevailing plaintiff could not recover damages from the defendant twice for the same injury.


    Scope
    Res judicata includes two related concepts: claim preclusion, and issue preclusion (also called collateral estoppel), though sometimes res judicata is used more narrowly to mean only claim preclusion.

    Claim preclusion focuses on barring a suit from being brought again on an event which was the subject of a previous legal cause of action that has already been finally decided between the parties or those in privity with a party.

    Issue preclusion bars the relitigation of factual issues that have already been necessarily determined by a judge or jury as part of an earlier claim.

    It is often difficult to determine which, if either, of these apply to later lawsuits that are seemingly related, because many causes of action can apply to the same factual situation and vice versa. The scope of an earlier judgment is probably the most difficult question that judges must resolve in applying res judicata. Sometimes merely part of the action will be affected, such as a single claim being struck from a complaint, or a single factual issue being removed from reconsideration in the new trial.


    Rationale
    Res judicata is intended to strike a balance between competing interests. On one hand, it assures an efficient judicial system that renders final judgments with certainty and prevents the inequity of a defendant having to defend the same claim or issue of law repeatedly. On the other hand, it protects the plaintiff's interest in having issues and claims fully and fairly litigated.[1]


    Exceptions to application
    Res judicata does not restrict the appeals process, which is considered a linear extension of the same lawsuit as it travels up (and back down) the appellate court ladder. Appeals are considered the appropriate manner by which to challenge a judgment rather than trying to start a new trial, and once the appeals process is exhausted or waived, res judicata will apply even to a judgment that is contrary to law.

    However, there are limited exceptions to res judicata that allow a party to attack the validity of the original judgment, even outside of appeals. These exceptions"”usually called collateral attacks"”are typically based on procedural or jurisdictional issues, based not on the wisdom of the earlier court's decision but its authority or competence to issue it. A collateral attack is more likely to be available (and to succeed) in judicial systems with multiple jurisdictions, such as under federal governments, or when a domestic court is asked to enforce or recognize the judgment of a foreign court.

    In addition, in cases involving due process, cases that appear to be res judicata may be re-litigated. An example would be the establishment of a right to counsel. People who have had their liberty taken away (i.e., imprisoned) may be allowed to be re-tried with a counselor as a matter of fairness.


    Failure to apply
    When a subsequent court fails to apply res judicata and renders a contradictory verdict on the same claim or issue, if a third court is faced with the same case, it will likely apply a "last in time" rule, giving effect only to the later judgment, even though the result came out differently the second time. This situation is not unheard of, as it is typically the responsibility of the parties to the suit to bring the earlier case to the judge's attention, and the judge must decide how broadly to apply it, or whether to recognize it in the first place. See Americana Fabrics, Inc. v. L & L Textiles, Inc. 754 F.2d 1524, 1529-1530

  • #2
    Res judicata (Latin for "a matter [already] judged") is, in both civil law and common law legal systems, a case in which there has been a final judgment and is no longer subject to appeal. The term is also used to refer to the doctrine meant to bar relitigation of such cases between the same parties, which is different between the two legal systems.

    Once a final judgment has been handed down in a lawsuit, subsequent judges who are confronted with a suit that is identical to or substantially the same as the earlier one will apply the res judicata doctrine to preserve the effect of the first judgment. This is to prevent injustice to the parties of a case supposedly finished, but perhaps mostly to avoid unnecessary waste of resources in the court system. Res judicata does not merely prevent future judgments from contradicting earlier ones, but also prevents them from multiplying judgments, so a prevailing plaintiff could not recover damages from the defendant twice for the same injury.


    Scope
    Res judicata includes two related concepts: claim preclusion, and issue preclusion (also called collateral estoppel), though sometimes res judicata is used more narrowly to mean only claim preclusion.

    Claim preclusion focuses on barring a suit from being brought again on an event which was the subject of a previous legal cause of action that has already been finally decided between the parties or those in privity with a party.

    Issue preclusion bars the relitigation of factual issues that have already been necessarily determined by a judge or jury as part of an earlier claim.

    It is often difficult to determine which, if either, of these apply to later lawsuits that are seemingly related, because many causes of action can apply to the same factual situation and vice versa. The scope of an earlier judgment is probably the most difficult question that judges must resolve in applying res judicata. Sometimes merely part of the action will be affected, such as a single claim being struck from a complaint, or a single factual issue being removed from reconsideration in the new trial.


    Rationale
    Res judicata is intended to strike a balance between competing interests. On one hand, it assures an efficient judicial system that renders final judgments with certainty and prevents the inequity of a defendant having to defend the same claim or issue of law repeatedly. On the other hand, it protects the plaintiff's interest in having issues and claims fully and fairly litigated.[1]


    Exceptions to application
    Res judicata does not restrict the appeals process, which is considered a linear extension of the same lawsuit as it travels up (and back down) the appellate court ladder. Appeals are considered the appropriate manner by which to challenge a judgment rather than trying to start a new trial, and once the appeals process is exhausted or waived, res judicata will apply even to a judgment that is contrary to law.

    However, there are limited exceptions to res judicata that allow a party to attack the validity of the original judgment, even outside of appeals. These exceptions"”usually called collateral attacks"”are typically based on procedural or jurisdictional issues, based not on the wisdom of the earlier court's decision but its authority or competence to issue it. A collateral attack is more likely to be available (and to succeed) in judicial systems with multiple jurisdictions, such as under federal governments, or when a domestic court is asked to enforce or recognize the judgment of a foreign court.

    In addition, in cases involving due process, cases that appear to be res judicata may be re-litigated. An example would be the establishment of a right to counsel. People who have had their liberty taken away (i.e., imprisoned) may be allowed to be re-tried with a counselor as a matter of fairness.


    Failure to apply
    When a subsequent court fails to apply res judicata and renders a contradictory verdict on the same claim or issue, if a third court is faced with the same case, it will likely apply a "last in time" rule, giving effect only to the later judgment, even though the result came out differently the second time. This situation is not unheard of, as it is typically the responsibility of the parties to the suit to bring the earlier case to the judge's attention, and the judge must decide how broadly to apply it, or whether to recognize it in the first place. See Americana Fabrics, Inc. v. L & L Textiles, Inc. 754 F.2d 1524, 1529-1530

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