CA7: Nolo plea after losing suppression hearing is collateral estoppel

A state multiday suppression hearing was denied, and that led to defendant’s nolo plea to the charges. Then he sued in federal court. When collateral estoppel was invoked, he argued that the plea vitiated collateral estoppel. It didn’t. Derrick v. Hines, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 24261 (7th Cir. Nov. 30, 2017):

A decision is preclusive on a particular issue in Wisconsin (whose law governs, see 28 U.S.C. §1738 ¶3) if, among other things, the issue was actually and necessarily decided in the prior litigation and application of preclusion is fundamentally fair. See Estate of Rille v. Physicians Insurance Co., 2007 WI 36 ¶¶ 36-38; Mrozek v. Intra Financial Corp., 2005 WI 73 ¶17. The validity of the search was decided on the merits adversely to Sangster and, given the importance of the evidence, that decision was necessary to the success of the prosecution. In the district court, and again in this court, Sangster contends that it nonetheless is not fair to treat the state court’s decision as preclusive. The district court was not persuaded, nor are we. The record shows that the state judge took the issue seriously, held a multiday hearing, and made findings on the contested issues. These findings were adverse to Sangster, but that does not make the hearing inadequate or the decision unfair. Nor does the fact that the state judge considered some evidence that may have been inadmissible at trial; this is normal when addressing motions to suppress. Sangster had an opportunity for an appellate resolution but chose not to use it. We need not add to what the district court wrote on this subject.

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