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Many people are unaware of the effects of res judicata or collateral estoppel on their prospective litigation. The Baez Law Firm has been litigating cases in the Texas District Court for our clients with a great rate of success. The reasons why res judicata are so important are outline below.

The final effect of a prior federal court judgment is controlled by federal res judicata rules. See Agrilectric Power Partners, Ltd. v. General Electric Co., 20 F.3d 663, 664 (5th Cir.1994); Steve D. Thompson Trucking, Inc. v. Dorsey Trailers, Inc., 870 F.2d 1044, 1045 (5th Cir.1989). Res judicata is appropriate if: 1) the parties to both actions are identical (or at least in privity); 2) the judgment in the first action is rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; 3) the first action concluded with a final judgment on the merits; and 4) the same claim or cause of action is involved in both suits. See United States v. Shanbaum, 10 F.3d 305, 310 (5th Cir.1994). Ellis v. Amex Life Ins. Co., 211 F.3d 935, 937 (5th Cir. 2000)

Claim preclusion, or “pure” res judicata, is the “venerable legal canon” that insures the finality of judgments and thereby conserves judicial resources and protects litigants from multiple lawsuits. Medina v. I.N.S., 993 F.2d 499, 503 (5th Cir.1993). Claim preclusion is appropriate only if four conditions are satisfied. First, the parties in a later action must be identical to (or at least be in privity with) the parties in a prior action. Second, the judgment in the prior action must have been rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction. Third, the prior action must have concluded with a final judgment on the merits. Fourth, the same claim or cause of action must be involved in both suits. Eubanks v. Federal Deposit Ins. Corp., 977 F.2d 166, 169 (5th Cir.1992). If these conditions are obtained, claim preclusion prohibits either party from raising any claim or defense in the later action that was or could have been raised in support of or in opposition to the cause of action asserted in the prior action. In re Howe, 913 F.2d 1138, 1144 (5th Cir.1990). United States v. Shanbaum, 10 F.3d 305, 310 (5th Cir. 1994).

One motivating principle behind claim preclusion is waiver. If a party does not raise a claim or a defense in the prior action, that party thereby waives its right to raise that claim or defense in the subsequent action. As we have previously put it: “The effect of a judgment extends to the litigation of all issues relevant to the same claim between the same parties, whether or not raised at trial.” Kaspar Wire Works, Inc. v. Leco Engineering & Mach. Inc., 575 F.2d 530, 535 (5th Cir.1978); see also Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94, 101 S.Ct. 411, 414, 66 L.Ed.2d 308 (1980) (holding that claim preclusion applies to claims that “were or could have been raised” in a prior action that involved “the parties or their privies” when the prior action had been resolved by “a final judgment on the merits”).

Issue preclusion, or collateral estoppel, in contrast, promotes the interests of judicial economy by treating specific issues of fact or law that are validly and necessarily determined between two parties as final and conclusive. Issue preclusion is appropriate only if the following four conditions are met. First, the issue under consideration in a subsequent action must be identical to the issue litigated in a prior action. Second, the issue must have been fully and vigorously litigated in the prior action. Third, the issue must have been necessary to support the judgment in the prior case. Fourth, there must be no special circumstance that would render preclusion inappropriate or unfair. Universal American Barge Corp. v. J-Chem, Inc., 946 F.2d 1131, 1136 (5th Cir.1991) (citing Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 326-32, 99 S.Ct. 645, 649, 58 L.Ed.2d 552 (1979)). If these conditions are satisfied, issue preclusion prohibits a party from seeking another determination of the litigated issue in the subsequent action.

As you can see, there are several ways to attack a subsequent action when the issues were litigated or could have been litigated by the parties or their privies. The principle applies not only to civil litigation but also to Cheap Texas Divorce, business issues, consumer issues and many others. There are applications of the principle in criminal matters; howerver, they are called different, and that is subject to another article.

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