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Alexander v. Chicago Park District

September 19, 1985

SILAS J. ALEXANDER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 79 C 2242 -- George N. Leighton, Judge.

Author: Wright

Before CUMMINGS, Chief Judge, ESCHBACH, Circuit Judge, and WRIGHT, Senior Circuit Judge.*fn*

WRIGHT, Senior Circuit Judge.

This lengthy litigation alleging discrimination in resources allocation and employment by the Chicago Park District during the years 1970 through 1980 raises these issues:

1) Did the court err in dismissing three counts of the amended complaint under res judicata and collateral estoppel?

2) Did it err in dismissing the remaining three counts of the amended complaint for failure to state a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983?

3) Did it err in denying plaintiffs' recusal motions?

FACTS

The procedural sequence in this case is convoluted and will be simplified here to include only pertinent facts.

In 1979, Alexander filed a class action on behalf of all Black, Hispanic and poor Chicago residents alleging racial discrimination by the Chicago Park District and its attorney's superintendent and past and present commissioners (collectively District). Personal liability is sought against the individual defendants.

In 1982, we affirmed the court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction to restrain the budgetary and fund allocation actions of the District. Alexander v. Chicago Park District, 709 F.2d 463 (7th Cir. 1983). Plaintiffs then filed two unsuccessful motions to disqualify Judge Leighton and followed these with a mandamus petition which we denied on February 8, 1983. Alexander's petition for an en banc rehearing on this mandamus petition was denied on April 4, 1983.

In 1983, the district court denied plaintiffs' motion for class notification under FED. R. CIV. P. 23(c)(2). It determined that class members would not be prejudiced because if the defendants prevailed, the class members without notice would not be bound.

Later in 1983, the district court consolidated this case with another class action, Midwest Community Council, Inc. v. Chicago Park District (Midwest), No. 79 C 3187 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 16, 1983) (unpublished), which raised similar discriminatory recreational resources allocation claims against the District. The Midwest action sought only equitable relief.

In count I of the second amended complaint, plaintiffs alleged that defendants administered the Chicago Park District in a racially discriminatory manner, so that parks located in predominantly Black communities were allocated less park resources, including state and federal funds, resulting in injuries and disparities in equipment and services. This court was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Relying on the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions and on § 1983, plaintiffs brought employment discrimination claims in counts II and III. Count II charged that a civil service examination administered by the Park Service was not (1) job-related, (2) culturally, racially and sexually unbiased, and (3) objectively administered.

Count III dealt with hiring, assigning and promoting employees based on race and ethnicity. This court also alleged a variance in numbers of administrative, recreational, support and maintenance staff between parks in white and non-white communities. This in turn was alleged to have forced certain plaintiffs to resign from park employ because of limited job opportunities.

Count IV, brought under § 1983, alleges personal injuries to several plaintiffs resulting from these racially discriminatory practices. A fifth count was subsequently deleted.

The consolidated cases were tried in 1983. The court severed Alexander's employment discrimination and tort claims. During trial, Alexander filed a third amended complaint, similar to the second in the relevant allegations.

After a three-month trial, the jury returned a verdict for the defendants on the resources allocation claims and judgment was entered against plaintiffs on count I in the Alexander suit. Because the jury heard the Midwest claims in an advisory capacity only, the court subsequently entered judgment for the District, incorporating its own findings of fact and conclusions of law. No appeal was taken from the Midwest judgment.

Defendants moved for summary judgment contending that the jury verdict on count I was res judicata on all claims in counts II, III and IV. In an order dated September 23, 1983, the court granted summary judgment on count IV, reasoning that the underlying basis of the tort claim was discriminatory resources allocation causing dangerous conditions in black neighborhood parks. The court granted a partial summary judgment on counts II and III to the extent that discrimination in resource allocation or administration would not be relitigated. If then dismissed counts II and III under FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b) to allow the parties to appeal.

Alexander did not appeal but filed an amended complaint as authorized in the September 23 order. Count I alleged that the District expended federal funds in a racially and ethnically discriminatory manner in violation of regulations of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Interior under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Count II sought an injunction, reinstatement, back pay and damages under Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions and under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It challenged the civil service examination given by the ...


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