Section 1983 Litigation/Preclusion Defenses
State Court Judgments[edit | edit source]
Under the full-faith and credit statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, federal courts in § 1983 actions must give state court judgments the same preclusive effect they would receive in state court under state law. This principle controls so long as the federal litigant against whom preclusion is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate his federal claims in state court. A full and fair opportunity to be heard requires only that state judicial procedures meet minimal procedural due process requirements.
The full-faith and credit statute governs even with respect to federal claims asserted by federal court plaintiffs who were involuntary state court litigants, like criminal defendants, and takings claimants who were required to pursue a state court just-compensation remedy in order to satisfy ripeness requirements. Furthermore, § 1738 governs even if the federal court § 1983 claimant has no alternative federal remedy, as when, under Stone v. Powell, a Fourth Amendment claim is not assertable in a federal habeas corpus proceeding. Section 1738 applies to claims that could have been, but were not, litigated in the state court proceeding, if state preclusion law encompasses the doctrine of claim preclusion. The Supreme Court has directed the federal courts not to carve out exceptions to preclusion required by § 1738 in § 1983 actions, even when there may be good policy reasons for doing so.
Administrative Res Judicata[edit | edit source]
In University of Tennessee v. Elliott, the Supreme Court held that an agency’s fact findings may preclude relitigation of the facts in a § 1983 action. “[W]hen a state agency ‘acting in a judicial capacity . . . resolves disputed issues of fact properly before it which the parties have had an adequate opportunity to litigate,’ . . . federal courts must give the agency’s fact finding the same preclusive effect to which it would be entitled in the State’s courts.” The decision in Elliott was not based on the full-faith and credit statute, but on federal common-law preclusion principles.
Arbitration Decisions[edit | edit source]
In McDonald v. City of West Branch, the Supreme Court held that arbitration decisions are not entitled to preclusive effect in § 1983 actions. The Court found that an arbitration proceeding is not a judicial proceeding within the meaning of the full-faith and credit statute. Furthermore, Congress intended § 1983 to be judicially enforced, and arbitration is not an adequate substitute for judicial enforcement.
The Supreme Court has interpreted McDonald narrowly. In 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, it upheld the enforceability of a collective bargaining agreement requiring union members to arbitrate their claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In so doing, it read McDonald as holding that an arbitration decision that was not appealed was not entitled to preclusive effect in a § 1983 action and, further, that “McDonald hinged on the scope of the collective-bargaining agreement and the arbitrator’s parallel mandate.”
References[edit | edit source]
- San Remo Hotel v. San Francisco, 545 U.S. 323, 337–38 (2005); Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984); Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94–95 (1980). See also Haring v. Prosise, 462 U.S. 306, 313–14 (1983).
- Kremer v. Chem. Constr. Corp., 456 U.S. 461, 480–81 (1982); Allen, 449 U.S. at 95.
- Allen, 449 U.S. at 103–04.
- San Remo Hotel, 545 U.S. at 337–38. See supra Chapter 17, § V (Ripeness).
- 428 U.S. 465 (1976).
- Allen, 449 U.S. at 103–04.
- Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist., 465 U.S. 75, 83–85 (1984).
- San Remo Hotel, 545 U.S. at 335.
- 478 U.S. 788 (1986).
- Id. at 799 (quoting United States v. Utah Constr. Mining Co., 384 U.S. 394, 422 (1966)).
- 466 U.S. 284 (1984).
- 556 U.S. 247 (2009).
- Id. at 263.