Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 00 C 6773--George W. Lindberg, Judge.
Before Bauer, Ripple and Williams, Circuit Judges.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bauer, Circuit Judge.
The appellant, Ralph Licari, appeals the district court's dismissal of his federal suit, which claims that the appellees violated Licari's substantive and/or procedural due process rights. We find that Licari's claims are barred, and therefore AFFIRM the decision of the district court.
On May 17, 1996, Licari, then a Chicago Police Officer, tore ligaments in his right wrist while struggling with an arrestee. As a result of his injury, Licari was placed on paid medical leave. Once his medical roll benefits were exhausted, Licari was placed on unpaid leave of absence from the Chicago Police Department. At that time, Licari applied to the Retirement Board of the Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago (the "Board") for disability benefits. The Board denied Licari's application, finding that he was not "disabled," as that term is defined by the Illinois Pension Code. *fn1
Licari sought review of the Board's decision in the Circuit Court of Cook County, which reversed the decision of the Board and awarded Licari disability benefits. Thereafter, the circuit court's decision was in turn reversed by the First District Appellate Court of Illinois. On appeal, the First District Appellate Court expressly rejected Licari's arguments that: (1) the Board's decision was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence and was unsupported by the record; (2) the Board proceeded contrary to law by allowing improper evidence into the record; and (3) Licari was otherwise denied a fair hearing by the Board. After the issuance of the appellate court's order reversing the circuit court and affirming the decision of the Board, Licari filed a Petition for Rehearing, which was denied. Licari subsequently filed a Petition for Leave to Appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, which was also denied.
Following the conclusion of these state court proceedings, Licari filed this suit in federal district court claiming deprivation of his substantive and procedural due process rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On February 22, 2001, the district court entered an order dismissing Licari's complaint. *fn2 Licari now appeals the district court's February 22, 2001 Order.
We review the district court's decision to grant a motion to dismiss de novo. Tobin for Governor v. Illinois State Bd. of Elections, 268 F.3d 517, 521 (7th Cir. 2001).
A) Dismissal of Licari's Claim Against Individually Named Defendants
Under the Full Faith and Credit Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, federal courts must give state court judgments the same preclusive effect they would have in state court. Parsons Steel, Inc. v. First Alabama Bank, 474 U.S. 518, 519 (1986); Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984). See also Rooding v. Peters, 92 F.3d 578, 580 (7th Cir. 1996) (the res judicata effect of a prior state court judgment on a subsequent section 1983 action is a matter of state law). In Illinois, the doctrine of res judicata provides that a final judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction on the merits is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies, and as to them constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action involving the same claim, demand or cause of action. Nowak v. St. Rita High Sch., 197 Ill.2d 381, 389, 757 N.E.2d 471, 477 (2001). Res judicata applies where: (1) a final judgment on the merits was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) there is an identity of causes of action; and (3) there is an identity of parties or their privies. Nowak, 197 Ill.2d at 390, 757 N.E.2d at 477 (citations omitted). An exception to the res judicata rule exists if the plaintiff did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate his claim in state court. Pliska v. City of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, 823 F.2d 1168, 1172 (7th Cir. 1987) (citations omitted). A plaintiff is afforded a full and fair opportunity to litigate his claims so long as the state court proceedings complied with the minimum procedural requirements of the Due Process Clause. Id.
In determining whether the Illinois state judgment at issue precludes federal review, we first ask whether that decision is a final judgment on the merits, rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction. There is no dispute. The decision of the First District Appellate Court of Illinois reversing the decision of the Circuit Court of Cook County (which reversed the decision of the Board) is a final judgment on the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction. The first element of res judicata is therefore satisfied.
We next turn to the question of whether there exists an identity of causes of action. In determining whether such an identity exists, we apply Illinois' "transactional" test, which provides that the assertion of different kinds of theories of relief constitutes a single cause of action for purposes of res judicata if a single group of operative facts gives rise to the assertion of relief. River Park, Inc. v. City of Highland Park, 184 Ill.2d 290, 310-11, 703 N.E.2d 883, 893 (1998). Additionally, and significantly, for purposes of a section 1983 action, the rule of res judicata applies to those issues actually litigated as well as those that could have been but were not litigated in the state court proceedings. ...