Philadelphia FCLU prides itself in proving families access to case law and scenarios. In our current case study which is wide spread on the internet may answer some questions when families or part of a family moves from one state to the next such as moving from Philadelphia to New Jersey. For this case the Appeals Court in New Jersey involving parties did not apply the doctrines of Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel correctly.
Specifically, the Court relied on a prior Pennsylvania Court holding that allegedly answered the question of paternity of Rymir to dismiss the current New Jersey paternity action. In so doing, the Appeals Court ignored key facts and circumstances surrounding the instant action, including, but not limited to, the salient fact that the Pennsylvania Order relied upon as dispositive on the question of paternity was vacated by a subsequent Pennsylvania Order. As such, the original order cannot be viewed as a final order or resolution of the issue of paternity, and accordingly, cannot be the basis for a denial of parties rights while using res judicata/collateral estoppel grounds.
The law in this case involves issues that affect thousands of potential Family Court litigants each year who are involved in Paternity, Custody and other Family Court related matters that cross state lines. These cases bring forward numerous questions related to the doctrines of Res Judicata, Collateral Estoppel, Full Faith and Credit, and Personal and Subject Matter Jurisdiction, whereby the courts and those seeking to establish parental obligations frequently encounter fraudulent attempts by defendants to avoid these obligations via these legal doctrines. These issues have become more pertinent due to the mobility of today’s society. Questions of paternity may be raised in one state, followed by subsequent paternity actions in other states, as the child moves between relatives. The legal effect of these decisions, and the validity of one state’s findings over another, is at the very heart of the matter at hand.
The May 19, 2011 Pennsylvania Advisory Order and subsequent New Jersey actions wholly ignore the separate action initiated by non-party Graves on or about April 4, 2011. This action established that non-party Graves was not in fact the father of RYMIR., and left open once again the question of RYMIR.’s paternity. Then on December 9, 2011 in PA, the July 16, 2010 PA Order of Graves was vacated, and the paternity rights of RYMIR.’s was lawful.
Public Importance – This information presents issues of general public importance and, by creating new rules with regards to the issues of collateral estoppel and res judicata, namely, reliance on a vacated judgment in a neighboring State Action as preclusive of issues of paternity, the Appeal Court conflicted with substantial precedent. However, a vacated judgment bears no conclusive effect on the underlying action; therefore, it can have no status as a final judgment for purposes of other actions. “As a general rule, a vacated judgment and the factual findings underlying it have no preclusive effect; the judgment is a legal nullity.
Full details can be found https://drive.google.com/file/d/15fkg_NX5Feow4iHQjNw5Ob_jmQbp8pw8/view
Please see our blog for greater details of this case study.
Name: Dr. Sharon McClain
Company: FCLU Philadelphia Chapter
Country: United States of America