E.D.Pa.: State court’s suppression of evidence is a fact question for trial on underlying facts and findings and not preclusive

Plaintiff was charged in state court with possession, and the state court credited his version over that of the officers on the basis for the stop because their testimony was contradictory and confusing. Still, that doesn’t have preclusive effect in his § 1983 case over the stop. That’s a fact question for trial, and it may be admissible. Moore v. Monaghan, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 849 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 5, 2021):

Neither this Court nor a jury is bound by the credibility findings of the state court. Likewise, the Court does not make any credibility determinations when deciding a motion for summary judgment. Siegel Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125, 1127 (3d Cir. 1995). But this Court cannot completely ignore that at least one other court found that the officers’ testimony was “incredible.” In so finding, the state court emphasized the officers’ “mistaken testimony and inaccurate recording of the facts.” Doc. No. 39-7 (Motion to Suppress Ruling) at 7-8.

The officers urge the Court not to consider the state court findings on the grounds that they are hearsay and the officers were not parties at the suppression hearing. In general, the Court may consider only evidence or statements that would be admissible at trial when deciding a motion for summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). Here, the Court can take notice of “publicly available records and transcripts from judicial proceedings.” Sturgeon v. Pharmerica Corp., 438 F. Supp. 3d 246, 257 (E.D. Pa. 2020); Fed. R. Evid. 201(b). In so doing, the Court acknowledges the existence of another court’s opinion, although it does not adopt the truth of the facts included therein. Sturgeon, 438 F. Supp. 3d at 257 (internal citations omitted). Moreover, at trial, the officers can be cross-examined based on “prior occasions when [their] testimony in other cases has been criticized by [a] court as unworthy of belief.” United States v. White, 692 F.3d 235, 248 (2d Cir. 2012), as amended (Sept. 28, 2012); Fed. R. Evid. 608(b). To the extent that the officers claim the state court findings contain alleged procedural and legal errors, their arguments go to the weight of the evidence—not to its admissibility.

But, without regard to the future use of the rules of evidence, because the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to Mr. Moore, it cannot find that the record would not permit a jury to reasonably question whether the officers had probable cause to stop Mr. Moore’s car before searching him and the car.

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