The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge:
An issue of res judicata.
If state law would require that the case be barred and the parties have
had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the case, a federal court
must also bar the case,
Shirley and William Cooper owned and operated the Little Moppet Day
Care Center (the Center) located in Springfield, Illinois. The Coopers
applied to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for a
license to operate the day care center in July 1987. During the pendency
of the Coopers' application, they ran the Center under a permit issued by
DCFS. On January 27, 1988, DCFS received an anonymous call. claiming that
children were being left unattended at the Center. This call initiated a
series of DCFS investigations of the Center.
From January 1988 to June 1988 three visits were made to the Center by
DCFS licensing representatives. These visits revealed several relatively
minor licensing violations which the Coopers quickly rectified. In
September 1988 DCFS issued a license to the Coopers authorizing them to
run the Little Moppet Day Care Center.
Between December 5, 1988 and March 20, 1990, DCFS licensing
representatives visited the Center eleven (11) times.*fn1 On four of
these visits the Center was found to be in compliance with licensing
rules. On the remaining seven visits, however, the Center was found to be
in violation of several licensing rules. The most significant violations
observed were improper staff to child ratios, unattended children, and
improper grouping of children of different ages.
Individually, these violations were not significant enough to warrant
revoking the Coopers' day care license. The repeated occurrences of these
violations over a sixteen month period, however, resulted in a DCFS
decision to revoke the Coopers' license. On May 21, 1990 DCFS mailed the
Coopers a notice of intent to revoke their license. The Coopers timely
mailed to DCFS their request for an administrative hearing and for a copy
of the charges against them. On June 13, 1990, Defendant D. Jean
Ortega-Piron wrote Plaintiffs that her staff would schedule the hearing
requested by the Coopers concerning their license.
DCFS continued to closely monitor the Center. Between June 1, 1990, and
December 7, 1990, licensing representatives of DCFS investigated the
Center thirteen (13) times. These visits continued to result in findings
of licensing violations. The most critical violations continued to be
improper child to staff ratios, unattended children and improper grouping
Prior to October 30, 1990 the Coopers had a contract with DCFS to
provide day care services for children DCFS had taken into custody. On
October 31, 1990 the Business Administrator of the DCFS Springfield
Regional Office, Defendant Frank Melchiorri, terminated the Plaintiffs'
contract. Plaintiffs allege that the termination of the contract resulted
in the loss of fourteen children.
Notice of Hearing and a Statement of Charges were sent to Plaintiffs on
November 15, 1990. The date for the administrative hearing was set for
January 8, 1991. On November 30, 1990, Defendant Robert Blackwell sent a
letter to the parents of the children enrolled at the Center. This letter
stated that serious licensing violations existed at the Center, which
jeopardized the health and safety of the children. The letter encouraged
the parents of children at the Center to seek other day care arrangements
and offered help in finding such arrangements.
The hearing concerning the Plaintiffs' license began on January 8, 1991
and was completed January 24, 1991 on receipt of the transcript. On April
18, 1991 the Hearing Officer for DCFS issued his Recommendation and
Opinion of the Hearing Officer, wherein he recommended that the Coopers'
license to operate the Center be revoked. On May 1, 1991 Defendant
Suter, the Director of DCFS, issued a final decision of the Department,
adopting in toto, the Hearing Officer's findings of fact and conclusions
of law. Accordingly, Suter revoked the Coopers' day care license,
The decision of the Director was timely appealed to the Sangamon County
Circuit Court pursuant to the Illinois Administrative Review Law. After
briefs were filed and arguments had, the decision of the Director was
reversed on December 13, 1991 in an Order of Review entered by the
Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit for Sangamon County. The
Circuit Court's order was timely appealed to the Illinois Appellate
Court, Fourth District. The Fourth District reversed the order of the
Circuit Court, and reinstated DCFS's revocation of the Coopers' license.
The Coopers then filed this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § ...