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Name: Piscitelli v. The Salesian Society
Case #: B195450
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 08/20/2008

In a civil action, the prior felony conviction of a witness may be offered to establish bias. In this civil action, the jury awarded Piscitelli $600,000 for sexual abuse by the priest who was the vice-principal of the high school he attended. The school was run by the Salesian Society. The testimony of one of the brothers was sought as being relevant against the society’s claim that the action was barred by the statue of limitations. When the brother testified contrary to plaintiff’s expectations, the court allowed him to be impeached for bias with his 1989 conviction for sexual abuse of a minor. The appellate court upheld the trial court, but limited its holding to the facts of the case, noting that it had not been presented with a testifying witness who is also the accused in a criminal case. Stating that it was not a stretch to conclude that one cleric convicted of child molestation would have sympathy for another cleric being sued for the same offense, the court found that the prior conviction of the testifying witness was relevant to show bias and should not be excluded under Evidence Code section 352.