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ROODING v. PETERS

January 18, 1995

RONALD ROODING, individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
HOWARD PETERS III, Director, Illinois Department of Corrections, in his individual capacity, and the ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN

 Plaintiff brings this action against defendants Howard Peters III ("Peters") in his individual capacity and the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), alleging violations of plaintiff's due process and equal protection rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendants' motion and dismisses plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.

 Facts1

 On December 17, 1993, plaintiff filed a petition against Peters in the Circuit Court of Cook County ("Circuit Court"), for habeas corpus relief or a writ of mandamus "seeking release on the grounds that he was being imprisoned in violation of his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of the laws." On December 22, 1993, the Circuit Court issued a writ of mandamus "directing that plaintiff be released because his constitutional right to equal protection of the laws was being violated."

 On February 22, 1994, plaintiff filed this civil rights action seeking damages under § 1983 for the violation of his rights as previously found in his state court mandamus action. *fn2" Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. In response to defendants' motion to dismiss, plaintiff argued that defendants were collaterally estopped from relitigating the claims in this case. This court denied defendants' motion, ruling that collateral estoppel applied in this case: "Rooding's request for a different remedy does not change the fact that the legal issue here is the same issue that was resolved in Rooding's favor in state court." Rooding v. Peters, 864 F. Supp. at 736. Defendants then filed the instant motion for judgment on the pleadings.

 Discussion

 A Rule 12(c) motion is governed by the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Craigs, Inc. v. General Elec. Capital Corp., 12 F.3d 686, 688 (7th Cir., 1993). The motion should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support his claim for relief, and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id, National Fidelity Life Ins. Co. v. Karaganis, 811 F.2d 357, 358 (7th Cir., 1987). The court considers only the matters presented in the pleadings and must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. National Fidelity Life Ins., 811 F.2d at 358.

 Defendants argue that plaintiff is barred under the doctrine of res judicata from asserting his § 1983 damages claim in federal court because he could have and should have sought damages in the Circuit Court of Cook County when he filed his mandamus petition. "Federal courts are required to give state court judgments the same preclusive effect that judgments would be given in the courts of the state from which they emerged if: (1) under the law of the forum state the claim would be barred by res judicata; and (2) the party against whom the earlier decision is asserted as a bar had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the claim or issue." Lolling v. Patterson, 966 F.2d 230, 235 (7th Cir., 1992); 28 U.S.C. § 1738.

 The court must first look to Illinois state law to determine whether res judicata applies. Under the doctrine of res judicata, a final judgment rendered on the merits is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action involving the same claim, demand, or cause of action. Torcasso v. Standard Outdoor Sales, Inc., 157 Ill. 2d 484, 490, 626 N.E.2d 225, 228, 193 Ill. Dec. 192 (1993); Koen v. City of Cairo, 909 F.2d 992, 999 (7th Cir., 1990) (under Illinois law, res judicata bars a plaintiff's subsequent § 1983 claim because he could have joined it with his mandamus claim in state court). Illinois applies the "same evidence" test to determine whether res judicata applies: whether the evidence needed to sustain the second action would have sustained the first. Torcasso, 157 Ill. 2d at 491, 626 N.E.2d at 228. Illinois also applies an alternative "transactional" test: the two suits constitute the same cause of action if they "both arise out of the same transaction, incident, or factual situation." Koen, 909 F.2d at 998. The Seventh Circuit explained the importance and effects of the doctrine of res judicata in Wozniak v. County of DuPage, 845 F.2d 677, 681 (7th Cir., 1988):

 
The principle that res judicata extends to all matters within the purview of the original action, whether or not they were actually raised, is tantamount to a rule requiring parties to consolidate all closely related matters into one suit. As such, the principle serves well the interest of judicial economy, and thus it is at the core of the res judicata doctrine. Two corollaries of that principle are also of fundamental importance to Illinois's res judicata doctrine. First is the rule that a party may not maintain two suits based on the same set of facts by the simple expediency of limiting the theories of recovery advanced in the first. The second rule is that a party may not maintain two suits based on the same set of facts simply by altering the claim for relief from one suit to the next. [citations omitted]

 In the instant case, this court previously applied Illinois law and denied defendants' motion to dismiss, ruling that the legal issue in plaintiff's § 1983 action is the same issue that was resolved in Rooding's favor in state court. Rooding, 864 F. Supp. at 736. Defendants now seek to apply this reasoning offensively, arguing that the court's conclusion compels dismissal because plaintiff could have and should have raised the issue of damages in the state court mandamus proceedings.

 Plaintiff counters that res judicata should not be applied, claiming his § 1983 action is not the same "cause of action" because "in order to prevail in his § 1983 action, Rooding also must establish that the evidence demonstrates that Peters is not entitled to qualified immunity." Plaintiff concedes that the claim in his state mandamus action, the violation of his constitutional right to equal protection, is similar enough to collaterally estop defendants from relitigating that issue in his § 1983 action. Plaintiff cites Jones v. City of Alton, 757 F.2d 878 (7th Cir., 1985), to support his theory that he did not have a "full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue" in his mandamus action.

 The plaintiff in Jones, a black police officer, was fired from his position. The plaintiff attempted and was prohibited from introducing evidence of disparate treatment in the administrative review of his discharge. Jones, 757 F.2d at 880. In the state court appeal of his administrative action, the Illinois Appellate Court defined the "issues" that were before both the hearing board and that court as: (1) whether the evidence supported a finding that Jones did in fact commit the offense for which he was allegedly discharged; and (2) whether the commission of that offense constituted sufficient cause for discharge. Jones v. Civil Service Commission of Alton, 80 Ill. App. 3d 74, 75, 399 N.E.2d 256, 258 (Ill.App. 5 Dist., 1979, 35 Ill. Dec. 422). When the plaintiff later filed a federal action under Title VII and § 1983, the district court dismissed his complaint because the action was barred by collateral estoppel and res judicata. Jones, 757 F.2d at 883. Reversing, the Seventh Circuit ruled that res judicata did not apply because Jones had attempted and was specifically denied a "full and fair opportunity to litigate" whether he had been discriminated against because of his race. Id., at 886.


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