DCFS, through Blackwell, violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights.
Application of the transactional test leads to the same result. It is
unquestionable that both suits arose out of the same group of operative
facts; DCFS's investigation of the Center and their subsequent decision
to revoke Plaintiffs' day care license.
3. Final Judgment on the Merits
The Fourth District's opinion in Cooper v. Dep't of Children & Family
Services, 234 Ill. App.3d 474, 599 N.E.2d 537, 174 Ill.Dec. 753 (1992),
provided a final judgment on the merits.
B. Full and Fair Opportunity to Litigate
Plaintiffs had the opportunity to raise their retaliation claim during
the administrative hearing and through judicial review of the hearing
officer's determination. Blackwell's letter was entered into evidence at
the administrative hearing and some testimony was offered in regards to
it. Plaintiffs did not, however, choose to argue that the letter
unconstitutionally retaliated against them. Plaintiffs also failed to
raise this claim in the Circuit Court.
A case on point is Button v. Harden, 814 F.2d 382 (7th Cir. 1987). In
that case, Button, a tenured teacher, was fired by the school board. An
administrative hearing followed, in which the hearing officer found that
the firing should be upheld. Button appealed to an Illinois circuit
court, which affirmed his dismissal. Button then brought a § 1983
action in federal court alleging that his firing had been in retaliation
for his exercise of his First Amendment right of free speech. The
district court dismissed the case on grounds of res judicata and Button
On appeal, Button claimed that neither the hearing officer nor the
circuit court ever determined whether he was a victim of unconstitutional
retaliation. According to the Seventh Circuit, Button had two choices
after receiving the hearing officer's decision. First, Button could have
immediately filed his § 1983 claim. Second, Button could file suit in
circuit court for judicial review of the hearing officer's findings. If
Button chose this route, he had to allege every ground for relief he had
against the hearing officer's decision.
Button chose the second path but did not raise the retaliation argument
in circuit court. The Seventh Circuit, relying on Edwards, held that
Button could have brought his First Amendment claim in the circuit court
proceedings; therefore, Button's § 1983 action was barred by res
Like Button, Plaintiffs could have brought their retaliation claim in
circuit court, thereby having an opportunity to have the issue fully and
fairly litigated. Plaintiffs, however, failed to raise their claim in
Ergo, Defendants' motion for summary judgment (d/e 12) is ALLOWED.