Salazar v. City of Oklahoma City

Decision Date16 March 1999
Docket NumberNo. 88,987,88,987
Citation1999 OK 20,976 P.2d 1056
PartiesBenny Ray SALAZAR, Appellant/Plaintiff, v. The CITY OF OKLAHOMA CITY, Appellee/Defendant, Oklahoma City Police Department, Defendant.
CourtOklahoma Supreme Court

¶0 Plaintiff brought a federal-court § 1983 action for wrongful arrest and detention. The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma gave summary relief to the defendants, ruling that there was probable cause for the issuance of the arrest warrant and there was no violation of plaintiff's federal constitutional rights either to freedom from unlawful arrest or to that from plaintiff's weekend detention. Oklahoma City was given summary judgment on plaintiff's federal-law claim; plaintiff's pendent state-law claim in tort, arising from the same facts, was dismissed. Plaintiff then filed a state tort action. Based on the preclusive effect of the earlier federal-court judgment as well as on the City's invoked immunity from suit under the Governmental Tort Claims Act, 51 O.S.1991 §§ 151 et seq., the District Court, Oklahoma County, Carolyn R. Ricks, trial judge, gave summary judgment to the City. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. On certiorari granted upon the plaintiff's petition,


Laura A. Shaeffer, Shaeffer & Shaeffer, Norman, Oklahoma for Appellant.

Richard Mann, Assistant Municipal Counselor, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for Appellee.


¶1 The dispositive issue on certiorari is whether the trial court erred in giving summary judgment to Oklahoma City [City]. We answer in the affirmative and reverse. The trial judge's ruling on City's issue-preclusion defense cannot be sustained. It rests on an inadequate record of the earlier federal-court action. The cause is accordingly remanded (a) for comprehensive reappraisal in light of the federal court's entire judgment roll and (b) for re-examination of the tendered immunity issues upon an analysis we offer today.


¶2 On 11 December 1992 school officials reported to the Oklahoma City Police Department [OCPD] that an eleven-year-old girl was being molested. The victim identified the man as "Benny Salazar," who rented a room at her mother's residence. The suspect was described as a Mexican male, approximately 43 years of age, with brown hair, brown eyes and full, thick facial hair. He was also described as self-employed, weighing about 200 pounds and having a height of 6 feet and 2 inches.

¶3 The investigating officer, Detective Pat Mauldin [Mauldin], searched Department records and found in them two individuals named "Benny Salazar." One was "Benny Ray Salazar," who had a previous conviction for a sex crime. Mauldin assumed the two names were borne by the same individual. He did not check any other source to verify his conclusion. The victim's mother confirmed ¶4 A warrant was issued on the strength of this information for the arrest of "Benny Ray Salazar." The Plaintiff, Benny Ray Salazar [Salazar], was arrested at his place of employment on 25 June 1993. His apprehension took place in front of other employees and patrons of the business. He was handcuffed and taken to jail, where he spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Although he protested his innocence, the authorities did not seem to believe him. Based on the vehemence of his assertions, Sergeant Marta Gilson [Gilson] of the Oklahoma County Detention Center checked county sheriff's records and found that there were two "Benny Salazars," one of whom, a "Benny Joe Salazar", had earlier been detained in the County Detention Center. By checking further, Gilson discovered the person named "Benny Joe Salazar" had fingerprints different from those of the arrestee-plaintiff and was listed at the same residence address as the victim and her mother.

that the suspect used the name "Benny" or "Ray" during the months he lived with them.

¶5 Gilson then informed Mauldin of her findings, but the latter told her that he knew of the existence of two "Benny Salazars" and was sure he had caused a warrant to be issued for the right man. Three days after Salazar's arrest, it was learned with certainty on Monday that the police had mistakenly arrested the wrong man. The accused child molester was one Benny Joe Salazar. The plaintiff, Salazar, was then released.

¶6 Salazar filed a federal-court civil rights action against City and the investigating officer. The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (Judge Russell) gave summary judgment to both defendants, ruling that (a) the uncontroverted probative support in the record established probable cause for the issuance of the arrest warrant, and (b) there was no violation of Salazar's federal constitutional rights either in effecting the arrest or in his ensuing weekend detention. The court added that, at the most, the investigating officer's behavior could amount to negligence. Judge Russell explicitly declined to exercise pendent jurisdiction over Salazar's state-law claims. These were dismissed otherwise than on the merits.

¶7 Following the federal-court decision Salazar brought a state-law tort action against City and the OCPD based on the same facts. OCPD was dismissed as a party defendant. Its dismissal is not challenged here. City received summary relief upon its combined defenses of issue preclusion and statutory immunity. The Court of Civil Appeals [COCA] affirmed the judgment, holding that (a)"collateral estoppel" should apply to Salazar's state-law claims because he had the opportunity, but failed, to controvert material facts in his response to City's motion for summary judgment; (b) the federal court's decision (based on briefs only and sans consideration of Salazar's untimely-submitted expert testimony) raised no significant procedural impediments to affording Salazar a fair opportunity to litigate his case; (c) City is immune from liability when a lawful court order issues and is executed for the arrest of a person and (d) City's immunity extends to the plaintiff's negligence-based allegations of overlong detention. Salazar now seeks this court's certiorari review of the COCA opinion. 1


¶8 City argues that Judge Russell's ruling resolved all the fact and law issues tendered in the state-law tort action and claims that Salazar is precluded from relitigating all of them. According to City's argument, which is founded solely on issue preclusion, 2 ¶9 Salazar denies that the invoked preclusion bar extends to any of the issues pressed in his state-law litigation. He urges that Judge Russell's ruling, which gave summary judgment to City on all of the issues in his § 1983 3 civil rights claim, was based on a stricter constitutional standard than that which applies to his state-law cause of action in tort. Because the earlier state-law claim was dismissed by the federal court without prejudice, 4 Salazar argues, he is not barred from now resubmitting that claim to a state court.

                the federal court (a) has determined that the warrant for Salazar's arrest was supported by probable cause and (b) has resolved in favor of City all issues that deal with alleged intentional acts.   City concedes that Salazar's only remaining claim lies in negligence

City's Defense Of Issue Preclusion

¶10 Under the doctrine of issue preclusion, 5 once a court has decided an issue of fact or of law necessary to its judgment, the same parties or their privies may not relitigate that issue in a suit brought upon a different claim. 6 Issue preclusion may apply when the party to be precluded has had a "full and fair opportunity" to litigate the issue that was adversely resolved. 7 The party relying on the defense of issue preclusion bears the burden of establishing that the issue to be precluded was actually litigated and determined in the prior action between the parties or their privies, and that its resolution was essential to a decision in that

action. 8

B. City's Argument For Preclusion As A Bar To The Entire State-Law Claim Must Be Rejected For Its Failure To Present Below And To Incorporate Into The Record For Appeal A Complete Judgment Roll From The Earlier Federal-Court Action

¶11 While an appellate court can take judicial notice of its own records in litigation interconnected with a case before it, 9 it cannot take judicial notice of records in other courts. 10 Those who rely on a judgment for its issue-preclusive force (or for any other consequence consistent with an earlier adjudication's legal efficacy) are duty-bound to produce--as proof of its terms, effect and validity--the entire judgment roll 11 for the case which culminated in the decision invoked as a bar to relitigation. 12

¶12 We accord a federal-court judgment the very same effect as that which we must give to a sister-state judgment under the full-faith-and-credit command of the U.S. Constitution. 13 Any controversy over the meaning and preclusive force to be accorded Judge Russell's ruling must be resolved by resort solely to the face of the judgment roll in the federal-court action. 14 The federal court's judgment roll was essential to City's success in securing summary relief in Salazar's state-court action. 15 Because City relies on that judgment for its preclusion defense, it was its burden to produce below the entire judgment roll from the federal-court action. 16 Without that roll no

court can determine with the requisite degree of certainty (1) what claims were pressed for adjudication and (2) which of the tendered issues were actually decided. As explained below, the federal-court roll's absence clearly is fatal to City's issue-preclusion defense.

C. The Federal-Court Judgment

¶13 From the text of Judge...

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