In Re: Jah'za G.
The fact that constitutional rights are at stake in a case is not a reason, in itself, not to apply the doctrine of collateral estoppel. The respondent mother entered a guilty plea under the Alford doctrine to assault and risk of injury charges concerning nonaccidental injuries to her toddler, R. R was adjudicated neglected and, ultimately, the respondent's rights to him terminated. Meanwhile, J was born. The commissioner invoked a 96 hour administrative hold on J predicated on predictive neglect based on R's nonaccidental injuries and obtained an order of temporary custody. J was adjudicated neglected. The court ultimately granted the commissioner's amended petition for termination of the respondent's parental rights to J pursuant to C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(B) (i) and (E). The mother appealed claiming, inter alia, that the court erred in granting the commissioner's motion to take judicial notice of the sibling decision and in granting the commissioner's motion in limine seeking to bar evidence contesting the finding that the respondent inflicted nonaccidental injuries on R. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The respondent's claims on appeal regarding the motions were unpreserved. She sought review under the plain error doctrine, Practice Book §60-5, but could not prevail as the trial court did not err in granting either motion. Technically, the court did not take judicial notice directly of the facts found in the sibling decision. Rather, the court took judicial notice directly of the sibling decision which included factual findings and then used the principle of collateral estoppel to prohibit the respondent from relitigating those facts. Despite the respondent's argument to the contrary, the court in the sibling decision explicitly found that the respondent caused R's injuries. The basis for the court's decision in this case was not primarily the judicially noticed fact as claimed, but, the respondent's failure to achieve a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation, including because of the respondent's unwillingness to accept responsibility for causing R's injuries. For the motion in limine, the respondent's contentions were rejected including that an exception to the doctrine of collateral estoppel should apply because her constitutional right to parent J was at stake and she should not have been precluded from litigating the cause of R's injuries. Collateral estoppel has been applied in criminal as well as child protection cases.