WOODBURY — A judge today denied a motion to dismiss an indictment against a Mickleton woman charging her with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child in a 2010 incident that left her 7-month old child with a fractured femur.
An attorney for Laura McKenna, 40, argued that the legal principle of “collateral estoppel” — barring re-litigation of a case — applies to the criminal charges, since the state’s Child Protection and Permanency agency had already investigated the injury and a Family Court ruling had resulted.
Defense attorney Bridget Green noted that the state child welfare agency is represented in court by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and that office also oversees county prosecutor’s offices, including Gloucester County’s, which is prosecuting McKenna.
“This criminal litigation should be barred by collateral estoppel,” Green said.
Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Temperance Williamson told Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson that case law has established that Family Court decisions “cannot be used in criminal proceedings thereafter.”
In the Attorney General’s Office, there are two “distinct roles,” said Williamson. “One is criminal and one is civil.” The office’s representation of state agencies such as Child Protection and Permanancy is a civil function, she said.
In denying the dismissal motion, Allen-Jackson said that legislative history and standards of proof required establish that the child welfare and law enforcement agencies involved are separate and different.
“I do not find there is collateral estoppel,” the judge said.