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State v. Pitner

Decided: July 12, 1963.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, EX REL., HELOYSE ACORMAN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ALPHONSE PITNER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Freund and Foley. The opinion of the court was delivered by Foley, J.A.D.

Foley

Plaintiff instituted an action in the Municipal Court of the City of Camden under N.J.S.A. 9:16-3, by which she sought a determination that defendant is the father of her illegitimate child, and an order that defendant provide support for the child pursuant to R.S. 9:16-2. The Municipal Court so held and ordered accordingly. On appeal to the Camden County Court, that court reached the same result. Thereafter the County Court denied defendant's motion for a new trial. Hence, this appeal.

The background of the proceeding follows: In 1955, upon plaintiff's complaint, a grand jury of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, returned an indictment charging that the defendant "did commit fornication with Heloyse Ellman

[plaintiff] and a certain female bastard child of the body of the said Heloyse Ellman did then and there beget." The indictment was founded on Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, § 4506 (1945). The section specifically makes the offense a misdemeanor, and provides for a fine of $100, as well as for support of the child, and hospital or funeral expenses. The civil aspects of Title 18 -- the award of support and the expenses -- are implemented by Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 1003 (1953), which permits the entry of judgment for same in the court of common pleas.

The case was heard in the Municipal Court in Philadelphia, Women's Criminal Division. Under applicable Pennsylvania law the parties entered into an agreement whereby plaintiff was to receive $1,000, and a verdict of not guilty was to be entered for the defendant. See Commonwealth v. Weaver , 9 Pa. Dist. 427 (1899). The court and the district attorney approved the settlement and a judgment of not guilty was entered.

In 1958 plaintiff sought a rehearing in the Pennsylvania court claiming that she never received the $1,000. The court dismissed her petition.

Thereafter, plaintiff established a domicile in New Jersey and instituted the present proceeding. Defendant denied paternity and also interposed the defense that the Pennsylvania judgment of "not guilty" was " res judicata " of the issue of paternity, and was binding on the courts of this State under Art. IV, § 1 of the Constitution of the United States , which provides:

"Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and Judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."

The Municipal Court found paternity as a fact and held that the Pennsylvania statute was penal in nature; therefore, it had no extraterritorial effect and could not be pleaded

as a bar to the New Jersey action which is deemed to be a civil action. See Overseer of Poor of Town of Montclair v. Eason , 92 N.J.L. 199, 203, 1 A.L.R. 631 (E. & A. 1918). The County Court likewise found paternity. It did not pass upon the character of the charge -- i.e. , whether civil or criminal, but held that the settlement in Pennsylvania and the recordation of "not guilty" in the judgment did not reflect a trial on the merits; hence, that the Pennsylvania judgment was not a bar to the New Jersey proceeding.

The sole question presented to us is whether in the circumstances outlined, the "not guilty" disposition arrived at by negotiation is dispositive of the paternity ...


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