F.T. v. State

In F.T. v. State, 862 P.2d 857 (Alaska 1993) a child-in-need-of-aid case, the superior court took judicial notice of the fact that a long-term restraining order had been issued against the father of the child, for the purpose of establishing that the father was factually guilty of the acts of violence that justified the issuance of the restraining order. The supreme court held that this was error. Id., 862 P.2d at 863-64. In reaching this conclusion, the supreme court cited cases from other jurisdictions holding that "judicial notice of another court's factual findings may not be used ... to establish ... the truth of the matters asserted". (Id., 862 P.2d at 864, citing Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. Rotches Pork Packers, Inc., 969 F.2d 1384, 1388-89 (2nd Cir. 1992).) This rule is based on the fact that the truth of evidence received in another court case (as opposed to the fact that the evidence was offered) is not a proper subject of judicial notice. See Alaska Evidence Rule 201(b), which declares that a court can take judicial notice of a fact only when that fact "is not subject to reasonable dispute" for one of two reasons: either it is "generally known within the State of Alaska", or it is "capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned". In a footnote to its opinion in F.T. (footnote 13), the supreme court discussed the possibility that, instead of improperly relying on the issuance of the restraining order as evidentiary proof of disputed facts, the superior court might have relied on the doctrine of issue preclusion to rule that F.T. was estopped from disputing the fact that he had committed earlier acts of violence. However, the supreme court concluded that it should not delve into this question because it was "by no means ... inevitable" that the doctrine of issue preclusion would apply to the facts of F.T., and because none of the factual issues and policies relevant to the proper resolution of this issue were explored in the trial court. Id., 862 P.2d at 864 n. 13.