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Parkinson v. Sanderson

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 30, 2019

MICHAEL ROY PARKINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN SANDERSON et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND DISMISSING CASE

          Jill N. Parrish United States District Court Judge.

         Plaintiff Michael Roy Parkinson brought this action alleging several counts of constitutional violations under § 1983 arising out of a traffic stop and subsequent search of his apartment. He seeks damages from three Murray County police officers. The court referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Evelyn J. Furse pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). [Docket 23]. On September 28, 2018, this court granted in part and denied in part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. [Docket 66]. The only of Mr. Parkinson’s claims to survive the Motion to Dismiss was a Fourth Amendment claim arising out of the traffic stop.

         Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on Mr. Parkinson’s remaining claim. Defendants argued that an element of the claim, whether the police officers lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Mr. Parkinson, was decided in Mr. Parkinson’s state criminal proceeding, where the state court concluded in two separate suppression hearings that the officers had probable cause. On July 31, 2019, Magistrate Judge Furse entered a Report and Recommendation, recommending that the claim be dismissed. [Docket 85]. Mr. Parkinson filed a timely objection to the Report and Recommendation. [Docket 89]. Thus, the court “must determine de novo” whether his objection has merit. Fed R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Scope of Mr. Parkinson’s Objection

         Mr. Parkinson objects to two portions of the Report and Recommendation. First, he contends that, to the extent that the Magistrate Judge did not conclude that essentiality is a requirement of issue preclusion, Utah law was improperly applied. Second, he argues that the issue must have been essential to the resolution of the prior suit, rather than just to a final judgment. Because the probable cause issue was not essential to his earlier criminal conviction, Mr. Parkinson asserts that the Magistrate Judge improperly concluded that he is precluded from litigating the issue in this civil case.

         Mr. Parkinson has conceded that he was a party to the earlier case in which the issue was first litigated, and he does not dispute that the issues are identical. He also does not dispute that the state court judge’s decisions on his motions to suppress were final judgments or that the precluded issue was essential to those final judgments. The only questions that this court reviews de novo, therefore, are (1) whether the Report and Recommendation improperly failed to recognize essentiality as a requirement of issue preclusion and (2) whether an issue must have been essential to the resolution of an earlier suit as a whole in order to be precluded.

         II. Requirements for Issue Preclusion Under Utah Law

         As the Magistrate Judge noted, and contrary to Mr. Parkinson’s argument, there are only four express elements of issue preclusion under Utah law:

(i) the party against whom issue preclusion is asserted must have been a party to or in privity with a party to the prior adjudication; (ii) the issue decided in the prior adjudication must be identical to the one presented in the instant action; (iii) the issue in the first action must have been completely, fully, and fairly litigated; and (iv) the first suit must have resulted in a final judgment on the merits.

Oman v. Davis Sch. Dist., 194 P.3d 956, 965 (Utah 2008) (quoting Collins v. Sandy City Bd. of Adjustment, 52 P.3d 1267, 1270 (Utah 2002)).

         As is clear from this list, essentiality is not an express requirement of issue preclusion in Utah. Regardless, the Report and Recommendation addressed essentiality, recognizing that it is a general principle that Utah courts use to guide their analysis of the four aforementioned elements. Thus, Mr. Parkinson’s first objection, that the Report and Recommendation did not sufficiently consider the essentiality of the issue, is without merit.

         III. Requirements of the Essentiality Principle in Utah

         The court next considers whether there is any merit to Mr. Parkinson’s argument that the essentiality principle requires that the issue have been essential to the resolution of the earlier suit, rather than only to a final judgment. Because issue preclusion is not “an inflexible, universally applicable principle, ” courts need not apply it when doing so would not serve the policy justifications underlying the doctrine. Buckner v. Kennard, 99 P.3d 842, 846 (Utah 2004) (citations omitted). Thus, even if courts in Utah are ...


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