APPEAL FROM THE ORDER OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA AT No. 71-1211.
Kalodner, Aldisert and Adams, Circuit Judges. Aldisert, Circuit Judge, concurring.
Appellants are justices of the peace who were elected, and commissioned by the Governor of Pennsylvania, for a six-year term of office expiring on the first Monday of January, 1974. On May 19, 1971, they were temporarily suspended from office by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania acting upon the recommendation of the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board.*fn1 The apparent cause for the temporary suspensions was an alleged violation by appellants of Rule 2 (a) of The Rules of Conduct, Office Standards and Civil Procedure for Justices of the Peace, which prohibits justices of the peace from, inter alia, being employed by the Commonwealth or a political subdivision or holding office in a political party or political organization.*fn2
On June 1, 1971, appellants, together with the Squires and Constables Association of Pennsylvania and other suspended justices of the peace, petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to revoke the suspension orders of May 19, 1971. This petition was denied by order of court dated July 14, 1971. Later, on August 23, 1971, the same group applied to Justice Brennan of the United States Supreme Court for a stay of the May 19th suspension orders pending the filing of a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. Justice Brennan denied the application for a stay on September 19, 1971, and no petition for a writ of certiorari was ever filed seeking appellate review of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's May 19th orders and its refusal to revoke its suspension orders.
Instead, appellants commenced this original action in the district court on December 30, 1971, alleging that their suspensions were effected without notice and without a hearing in violation of both the Commonwealth's "Rules of Procedure Governing the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board" and the United States Constitution.*fn3 They urged the district court (1) to enjoin enforcement of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's suspension order, and (2) to enjoin the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board from conducting hearings and making further recommendations to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.*fn4 In an opinion and order dated June 16, 1972, the district court, based on "abstention" principles, granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the suit. 349 F. Supp. 315.
Although we affirm the judgment of the district court, we do so on a ground other than that relied upon by the district court.*fn5
It is clear from a recitation of the facts of this case that the appellants have sought, through the vehicle of a section 1983 suit for injunctive relief, to have a lower federal court engage in what essentially constitutes relitigation of issues already decided by Pennsylvania's highest court. Having failed to pursue the only available course for federal review of the state court's determination -- a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States -- the appellants are now barred by the principles of res judicata from obtaining such review in the lower federal courts.*fn6
Guided by the decision in Angel v. Bullington, 330 U.S. 183, 91 L. Ed. 832, 67 S. Ct. 657 (1947), the federal courts have held that litigants may not seek to have redetermined, by original actions in federal district courts, issues already settled in a prior state-court adjudication.*fn7 Illustrative of the prevailing view, and similar to the present case, is Coogan v. Cincinnati Bar Assoc.*fn8
Coogan, an attorney, was indefinitely suspended as a result of a recommendation of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline and the Cincinnati Bar Association. The Supreme Court of Ohio approved the findings and recommendations of the Board, and issued the suspension order. Coogan failed to seek certiorari from the United States Supreme Court for review of the Ohio court's action. Instead, he brought an original action under the Civil Rights Act*fn9 in the federal district court, seeking to enjoin enforcement of the suspension. He claimed that his suspension contravened certain constitutional guarantees.
The district court dismissed the action and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. In so doing, it offered a succinct statement of the relevant principles:
"Coogan had an adequate remedy for review of his suspension by petitioning the Supreme Court of the United States for a writ of certiorari. ...