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What is claim preclusion?

You will often see claim preclusion referred to as Res Judicata.

Claim preclusion is what keeps parties from suing each other again after a final judgment on the merits is reached in a civil litigation.   For example, if a plaintiff prevails in a lawsuit against a defendant or loses a case against a defendant in Case A, the plaintiff probably cannot sue the defendant again based on the same events in Case B. Even if the plaintiff sues in a different court or alleges new causes of action, Case B is probably barred by claim preclusion.

 For example, let's say after a car accident Patty sues David for negligence in Case A.   The jury in Case A rules against Patty.  Patty probably can't sue David again based on the car accident.  Even if she sues in a different court or alleges battery instead of negligence, the case is probably barred.

Three things to look for in a case where claim preclusion might apply:

1. Were the same parties involved in a prior litigation?

2. Is the second lawsuit based on the same events as the first lawsuit?

3. Were the causes of action (e.g., negligence) in the second case already litigated in the first case?  Could the causes of action in the second case have been raised in the first case?

If the answers to these questions are "Yes" then claim preclusion probably applies.  

Below is a video on claim preclusion.


Riley v. California: Why the police need a warrant to search the cellular phone of a person under arrest

Last month, in Riley v. California, the Supreme Court decided that the police, absent exceptional circumstances, cannot constitutionally search an arrested person's cellular phone.  If you are studying US law this is a very useful decision to see how courts split on tricky issues.   The case is also helpful to understanding how courts apply precedent and create new precedent.  

The background to the case is that the police are generally allowed to conduct a warrantless search of a person who is arrested.  This is often called a "search incident to an arrest."  That is, the police can search the arrested person's pockets, things the arrested person is carrying, and immediate surroundings.  Courts agree that the police need to conduct these types of  searches to ensure their safety (an arrested person might have a concealed weapon) and to keep arrested persons from destroying evidence.  For example, in one important case, a police search of an arrested person's cigarette pack was held constitutional.

The Supreme Court explained that a warrantless search of a cellular phone is different.  First, cellular phones usually are not dangerous (unless perhaps the arrested person used the phone to contact accomplices who might want to attack the police). Second, although data on a cellular phone can be remotely destroyed, the Supreme Court believed that measures could be taken to secure the data without searching the phone.  Finally, the Supreme Court explained that cellular phones often contain large amounts of personal data, some of it dating years back.  Searching a cellular phones pictures, emails, etc. is too far reaching.  

 Below is a short video discussing the case:


Talk to you soon.....

Lots of traveling recently and flying today.  But talk to you soon!

Are you an international student with thoughts about studying law in the United States?

On the message board one student asked about whether she should study law in South Korea or in the United States.  I have some thoughts on this which I'll be posting but if you have a perspective, why not join the message board and let her know what your opinion is?  You'll need to register and there will be a brief delay before you can post but I would be interested in getting more than just my opinion on this topic.  The message board is here if you want to register and offer a response.


Follow the link to the post.