Monday, October 27, 2008

child abuse - expungement - founded report - collateral estoppel

C.J. v. DPW - Cmwlth. Court - October 24, 2008
An adjudication of dependency and finding of abuse under the Juvenile Act bars a request for expunction from a founded report of child abuse under the Child Protective Services Law, under the doctrine of collateral estoppel.

Our recent decision in K.R. v. DPW, 950 A.2d 1069 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008), holding the Department may rely on findings made in a dependency proceeding to deny a request for expunction of a founded child abuse report, compels the same result here.

An administrative hearing on the expunction request is not permitted because the petitioner was given a full and fair hearing to defend against the allegations in the dependency proceedings. He cannot collaterally attack the trial court’s dependency and abuse findings. The Court’s determination in K.R. allows for application of res judicata in expunction proceedings where, as here, the findings of fact in dependency proceedings establish child abuse at the hands of a named perpetrator.

Collateral estoppel bars a subsequent lawsuit where (1) an issue decided in a prior action is identical to one presented in a later action; (2) the prior action resulted in a final judgment on the merits; (3) the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted was a party to the prior action, or is in privity with a party to the prior action; and (4), the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior action.

The dispositive legal and factual issues were identical in both proceedings here, and the remaining criteria of collateral estoppel are similarly met.

PFA - past abuse - present fear of bodily injury

Buchalter v. Buchatler - Superior Court - October 27, 2008

Past abuse that was subject of prior consent order held relevant to plaintiff's allegation of present fear of bodily injury, even

In essence, the trial court reasons that if Patricia is not believed as to the allegations in the present petition, then there is no need to hear testimony about prior abuse. We disagree. “In the context of a PFA case, the court’s objective is to determine whether the victim is in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury….”

The facts surrounding the prior PFA consent order are relevant to an understanding as to the reasonableness of plaintiff's fear relative to the present petition. Moreover, merely determining that a party is not credible is not a basis in itself to exclude relevant testimony.
The court also cited Miller v. Walker, 665 A.2d 1252 at 1259, for the proposition that it was proper in that case to consider abuse which had occurred 6 years before.

disability - SSA general objections and remand request rejected

Morales v. Astrue - ED Pa. - October 23, 2008

SSA submission of "merely of generalized arguments, disagreeing with the Magistrate Judge’s not impugn the validity of the Magistrate Judge’s Recommendation."

SSA request for remand for further evidentiary development also denied where the facts were fully developed before the ALJ and the Commissioner does not specify what additional evidence might be available.