Lucido v. Superior Court

Decision Date06 September 1990
Docket NumberNo. S011151,S011151
Citation51 Cal.3d 335,272 Cal.Rptr. 767,795 P.2d 1223
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 795 P.2d 1223, 2 A.L.R.5th 995 Arasimo Settemo LUCIDO, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of Mendocino County, Respondent; The PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest.

Richard L. Huff, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Ronald W. Brown, Public Defender, and Lu Ann Hughes, Asst. Public Defender, Ukiah, for petitioner.

No appearance for respondent.

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Steve White and Richard B. Iglehart, Chief Asst. Attys. Gen., John H. Sugiyama, Asst. Atty. Gen., Stan M. Helfman, Christopher J. Wei and Edward P. O'Brien, Deputy Attys. Gen., for real party in interest.

Thomas W. Sneddon, Jr., Dist. Atty., Santa Barbara, and Gerald McC. Franklin, Deputy Dist. Atty., as amici curiae on behalf of real party in interest.

LUCAS, Chief Justice.

In this case we decide whether the doctrine of collateral estoppel bars prosecution of petitioner Arasimo Settemo Lucido for indecent exposure (Pen.Code, § 314, subd. 1; further statutory references are to this code unless otherwise indicated). At a probation revocation hearing conducted prior to a criminal trial based on the same underlying conduct, the court found that the People failed to prove a violation of probation based on the alleged offense. The People seek review of the Court of Appeal judgment ordering the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate directing the superior court to dismiss the indecent exposure charge on collateral estoppel grounds.

We reverse the Court of Appeal judgment. Although traditional threshold requirements for applying collateral estoppel may be satisfied in this case, we must also determine whether the doctrine's application serves the fundamental principles underlying it. Because public policy requires that ultimate determinations of criminal guilt and innocence not be made at probation revocation hearings, barring relitigation of issues at trial will not preserve the integrity of the judicial system. In addition, precluding such relitigation is not needed to protect petitioner from "vexatious" litigation. For these reasons, we do not apply collateral estoppel in this case.


In January 1988, petitioner was convicted of indecent exposure (§ 314, subd. 1) and carrying a loaded firearm in a public place (§ 12031). The court sentenced him to 36 months' probation, subject to conditions that he obey all laws and refrain from using or possessing illegal drugs. In August, he was charged with a new count of indecent exposure, and shortly thereafter his probation officer informed the justice court (Little Lake Judicial District, Mendocino County) that the incident constituted a violation of his probation. The court remanded petitioner to custody and set bail. 1 On petitioner's motion the court continued a revocation hearing until early September.

On the day of the revocation hearing, petitioner's probation officer recommended that probation also be revoked on an independent ground: violation of the condition that petitioner not use illegal drugs. Urine tests performed in August showed positive results for cannabinoid, indicating petitioner had used marijuana. Petitioner admitted violating the no-drug-use condition. Although this violation alone constituted sufficient ground for revocation of probation (see § 1203.2 [court may revoke probation if probationer "has violated any of the conditions of his probation"] ), the revocation hearing proceeded, with the indecent exposure allegation the only contested issue. The district attorney and petitioner each introduced evidence and called witnesses, 2 but no hearing record was kept. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court held revocation was warranted "based only upon [petitioner's] continuing use of marijuana, and not based upon the new indecent exposure charges." It simultaneously reinstated probation and extended it 30 days. The court's findings stated, "clear and convincing evidence was not produced by the prosecution to establish that defendant committed a violation of Penal Code section 314(1) on June 23, 1988. Accordingly, defendant's probation is not violated on this ground."

Subsequently, petitioner moved to dismiss the new criminal charge on the ground that relitigation of the indecent exposure issue was collaterally estopped by the revocation hearing decision. After the superior court denied the motion, the Court of Appeal, by peremptory writ, directed it to dismiss the information on collateral estoppel grounds. We granted the People's petition for review.


Collateral estoppel precludes relitigation of issues argued and decided in prior proceedings. 3 (Teitelbaum Furs, Inc. v. Dominion Ins. Co., Ltd. (1962) 58 Cal.2d 601, 604, 25 Cal.Rptr. 559, 375 P.2d 439.) Traditionally, we have applied the doctrine only if several threshold requirements are fulfilled. First, the issue sought to be precluded from relitigation must be identical to that decided in a former proceeding. Second, this issue must have been actually litigated in the former proceeding. Third, it must have been necessarily decided in the former proceeding. Fourth, the decision in the former proceeding must be final and on the merits. Finally, the party against whom preclusion is sought must be the same as, or in privity with, the party to the former proceeding. (Sims, supra, 32 Cal.3d at p. 484, 186 Cal.Rptr. 77, 651 P.2d 321; People v. Taylor (1974) 12 Cal.3d 686, 691, 117 Cal.Rptr. 70, 527 P.2d 622.) The party asserting collateral estoppel bears the burden of establishing these requirements. (See, e.g., Vella v. Hudgins (1977) 20 Cal.3d 251, 257, 142 Cal.Rptr. 414, 572 P.2d 28.)

Petitioner arguably has fulfilled the threshold requirements in this case. There is little doubt that the indecent exposure allegation was "actually litigated" and "finally decided" at the revocation hearing, or that the "same parties" raised the issue at the two proceedings. The parties each presented evidence and witnesses in support of their positions, and certainly had the opportunity to present full cases. (See ante, fn. 2; Sims, supra, 32 Cal.3d at [51 Cal.3d 342] pp. 481-482, 186 Cal.Rptr. 77, 651 P.2d 321.) The revocation proceeding findings indicated final disposition of the indecent exposure allegations on the merits. The People could have appealed the probation decision (see § 1466, subd. (a)(6)), but declined to do so. 4 Because it was free from direct attack, the hearing decision was "final." (See Sims, supra, 32 Cal.3d at p. 486, 186 Cal.Rptr. 77, 651 P.2d 321.) The "same parties" requirement is also fulfilled: the district attorney presented the case in favor of revocation at the hearing, and similarly sought to prosecute petitioner.

As to the "identical issue" requirement, we note that the two proceedings threaten petitioner with fundamentally different sanctions. This fact, however, is not dispositive. The "identical issue" requirement addresses whether "identical factual allegations" are at stake in the two proceedings, not whether the ultimate issues or dispositions are the same. (Sims, supra, 32 Cal.3d at p. 485, 186 Cal.Rptr. 77, 651 P.2d 321.) The requirement is fulfilled in this case; in each proceeding, petitioner's alleged commission of indecent exposure was at issue.

The final threshold requirement is that the issue have been "necessarily decided" at the revocation hearing. Although resolution of the indecent exposure issue may not have been "necessary" to a decision to revoke petitioner's probation in light of the additional conceded violation, a holding that collateral estoppel does not apply for this reason would be inconsistent with our prior application of this requirement. The courts have previously required only that the issue not have been "entirely unnecessary" to the judgment in the initial proceeding. (See generally 7 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (3d ed. 1985) Judgment, § 268, p. 710, and cases cited therein; see also Sims, supra, 32 Cal.3d at pp. 484-485, 186 Cal.Rptr. 77, 651 P.2d 321 [holding issue "necessarily decided" because determination of innocence by preponderance of evidence "necessarily" determines lack of proof beyond reasonable doubt].) This test has been met here. The justice court's ultimate order (revoking and reinstating probation on slightly modified conditions) was based on a conceded violation. A hearing was held on the disputed indecent exposure allegation even after this concession had been made. The fact that the matter proceeded to a contested hearing indicated that the parties anticipated the court would treat petitioner differently if it found he committed indecent exposure. Accordingly, its finding on this issue was not "entirely unnecessary" to the judgment modifying the terms of petitioner's probation.

Even assuming all the threshold requirements are satisfied, however, our analysis is not at an end. We have repeatedly looked to the public policies underlying the doctrine before concluding that collateral estoppel should be applied in a particular setting. (See, e.g., Sims, supra, 32 Cal.3d at p. 477, 186 Cal.Rptr. 77, 651 P.2d 321 ["this court must consider whether the traditional requirements and policy reasons for applying collateral estoppel were satisfied by the facts of this case"].) As the United States Supreme Court has stated, "the rule of collateral estoppel in criminal cases is not to be applied with the hypertechnical and archaic approach of a nineteenth century pleading book, but with realism and rationality." (Ashe v. Swenson (1970) 397 U.S. 436, 444, 90 S.Ct. 1189, 1194, 25 L.Ed.2d 469; 5 see also Jackson v. City of Sacramento (1981) 117 Cal.App.3d 596, 603, 172 Cal.Rptr. 826 ["collateral estoppel is not an inflexible, universally applicable principle; policy considerations may limit its use where the limitation on relitigation underpinnings of the doctrine are outweighed by other...

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