III. Section 1983 Claims
Defendants argue that plaintiff's § 1983 claims are barred by the relevant statute of limitations because plaintiff filed her complaint in this action on July 1, 1992, more than two years after the alleged discriminatory acts. The statute of limitations begins to run when a reasonable plaintiff knew or should have known of facts that would support a charge of discrimination. Kuemmerlein v. Board of Education of the Madison Metropolitan School District, 894 F.2d 257, 261 (7th Cir. 1990). In determining when a cause of action accrues, the critical time is when the discriminatory act occurs, "not the point at which the consequences of the act become painful." Chardon v. Fernandez, 454 U.S. 6, 8 (1981) (holding that the applicable limitations period began to run from the dates when the employees were notified that their appointments would terminate in the future, rather than from the dates of actual termination); Smith v. City of Chicago, 769 F.2d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 1985).
Plaintiff's § 1983 claims center around Asllani's allegations that she was discriminated against when she was suspended, when defendants voted not to renew her employment contract and when she was terminated. The facts upon which plaintiff principally rely focus on defendants' decision to invalidate the Council's April 14, 1990 vote to renew her contract as well as their subsequent decision on April 25, 1990, not to renew her contract. Plaintiff was aware of her suspensions and the grounds for her suspensions. In fact, pre-suspension hearings were held and plaintiff participated in those hearings. More importantly, plaintiff admits that on May 17, 1990, she was informed that the Council had voted not to extend a contract to her. She also knew that it was the position of the Board that the meeting of April 14, 1990, was deemed to be illegal.
Plaintiff does not dispute those facts, but argues that her claims were based on her termination. Asllani maintains that she did not know she was terminated until she went to her office on July 6, 1990 and was told that she was no longer the principal at Pickard School. Plaintiff's argument is without merit. Plaintiff admits that she knew the Council's decision not to renew her contract on May 17, 1990. The alleged violations which form the basis of plaintiff's § 1983 claims (the suspension, the non-renewal of her contract, etc), all occurred prior to July 1, 1990. She knew of those facts and must have known, or at least a reasonable person should have known, that she would not continue as principal after June 30, 1990. Since plaintiff's complaint was filed July 1, 1992, over two years after the alleged violations, plaintiff's § 1983 claims are time-barred and dismissed.
IV. Suspension and Termination for Political Reasons in Violation of 28 U.S.C. 1343
In count XI, plaintiff claims that defendants conspired to terminate her because of her political affiliation, resulting in a violation of her civil rights under Title VII, the School Reform Act and the 1977 Plan. Asllani contends that this conspiracy is a violation of 28 U.S.C. § 1343. As defendants point out, section 1343 is a jurisdictional statute regarding the filing of civil rights claims and therefore cannot serve as a basis for plaintiff's cause of action.
Although not clearly stated, count XI also attempts to allege that defendants violated plaintiff's first amendment right of free speech and association, by suspending and terminating plaintiff based on her race and political affiliation. Apparently plaintiff is alleging a § 1983 (or § 1985) claim based on defendants' alleged conspiracy to violate her first amendment rights. Assuming that to be the case, plaintiff's claim nevertheless fails since it is barred by the statute of limitations. (See discussion in Part III of this opinion). Count XI is dismissed.
V. Other Issues
A. Motion to Stay Proceedings
Defendants request that this court stay the instant proceeding pending resolution of plaintiff's state court action. When parallel cases in federal and state courts cover the same issues, a district court may stay federal proceedings when exceptional circumstances exist. Interstate Material Corp. v. City of Chicago, 847 F.2d 1285, 1287 (7th Cir. 1988). Before an action can be stayed, the court must determine that the state and federal proceedings are parallel. This means that substantially the same parties are contemporaneously litigating substantially the same issues in another forum. Id. at 1288. In determining if the cases are parallel, the court "looks not for formal symmetry between the two actions, but for a substantial likelihood that the state litigation will dispose of all claims presented in the federal case." Lumen Construction, Inc. v. Brant Construction Co., Inc., 780 F.2d 691, 695 (7th Cir. 1985).
In plaintiff's complaint filed in state court, she names the Board, the Council, Principe, Kimbrough, Cortes and Engelskirchen as defendants. In the case now before us plaintiff names twenty-eight defendants, including the City, Pilsen and UNO -- who were not named in her state complaint. The addition of defendants, however, does not in itself destroy the parallel nature of the cases. Interstate Material, 847 F.2d at 1288. However, the issues presented in the two cases also differ. In her federal case, plaintiff raises at least five additional claims against defendants.
Again, abstention from the "exercise of federal jurisdiction is the exception, not the rule." Colorado River Water Conservation District et al. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 813 (1975). Although it is a close call, after a comparison of the federal and state complaints we find that the federal and state actions are not sufficiently parallel to warrant a stay of the proceedings.
B. Issues Regarding Specific Defendants
Defendants argue that the local school council has no capacity to be sued as a defendant and therefore should be dismissed from these proceedings. Local school councils are bodies created by the Illinois State Legislature pursuant to the Illinois School Reform Act. Ill.Ann. Stat. ch.122, P 34-2.1-2.3. The powers and duties of local school councils are defined and limited to those specifically stated in the statute. Defendants argue that because local school councils do not have exclusive authority to evaluate, terminate or extend performance contracts to principals under the Act, they are not policymaking boards with the capacity to be sued. The statute, however, states that one of the responsibilities of local school councils is to determine whether the principal's performance contract is to be renewed. Local school councils are therefore policymaking boards with respect to the renewal of principals' employment contracts. Defendants argue that local school councils are not policy making bodies because only the board has the power to ultimately approve principal's contracts and terminate for cause. The fact that a person does not become a principal until the Board approves her contract is of no consequence in plaintiff's case. Plaintiff's case rests almost entirely on the Council's decision not to renew her employment contract and, as stated above, that decision rests within the power of the Council.
The Pickard School local school council is a suable entity.
In her complaint, plaintiff alleges that UNO and Solis conspired to violate § 1983 (count IV), tortiously interfered with her contract (count VIII), and conspired to suspend and terminate her for political reasons (count XI). This court has dismissed each of those counts and therefore it is unnecessary to discuss UNO and Solis' motion for summary judgment. Nevertheless, UNO and Solis have provided evidence demonstrating that they have not been involved in any activities involving Pickard School since at least 1988, and had no involvement in Asllani's suspension or termination. Defendants maintain that they pointed out these facts to plaintiff's counsel months ago. They argue that plaintiff failed to make a reasonable inquiry into whether or not her claims against UNO and Solis were well grounded in fact. Therefore, they request that costs and fees be awarded to them pursuant to Rule 11. Rule 11 sanctions will be considered after plaintiff has the opportunity to submit a memorandum to this court discussing what investigation was performed in order to make a reasonable inquiry into whether UNO and Solis were viable defendants.
For the foregoing reasons, we dismiss the following claims against all parties: the § 1983 claims included in counts IV-VI, the contract claims (counts VII and VIII), the conspiracy claim (count XI) and plaintiff's claim alleging violation of the 1977 Plan (count II).
JAMES B. MORAN,
Chief Judge, U.S. District Court
March 29, 1993.