rejected at the state court level for his dismissal.
"Issue preclusion...bars relitigation of issues adjudicated in a prior action." Swineford v. Snyder County, 15 F.3d 1258, 1266 (3d Cir. 1994).
Under the Full Faith and Credit Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, this court is required to give the Pennsylvania court ruling the same preclusive effect as a state court would. Edmundson v. Borough of Kennett Square, 4 F.3d 186, 189 (3d Cir. 1993), citing Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 66 L. Ed. 2d 308, 101 S. Ct. 411 (1980) (issue preclusion) and Migra v. Warren City School District Board of Education, 465 U.S. 75, 85, 79 L. Ed. 2d 56, 104 S. Ct. 892 (1984) (claim preclusion).
"Decisions of state administrative agencies that have been reviewed by state courts are also given preclusive effect in federal courts." Edmundson, 4 F.3d at 189, citing Kremer v. Chemical Construction Corp., 456 U.S. 461, 479-85, 72 L. Ed. 2d 262, 102 S. Ct. 1883 (1982).
Here, the proceedings were reviewed by a state court, removing them from the realm of federal common law applicable under the United States Supreme Court's ruling in University of Tennessee v. Elliott, 478 U.S. 788, 92 L. Ed. 2d 635, 106 S. Ct. 3220 (1986) and its progeny, and placing it squarely under section 1738 and its requirement that Pennsylvania law govern the outcome. Compare: Dionne v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 40 F.3d 677 (4th Cir. 1994) (Unreviewed state administrative decision not entitled to preclusive effect in a section 1983 action arising out of the same transaction or series of transactions under federal common law claim preclusion principles applicable under Elliott) and Roth v. Koppers Industries, Inc., 993 F.2d 1058, 1062 (3d Cir. 1993) ("Following Elliott, the courts of appeals have unanimously concluded that unreviewed administrative agency findings can never be accorded issue preclusive effect in subsequent Title VII proceedings.")
Five preconditions attach to a finding of issue preclusion under Pennsylvania law. There must be proof that:
1) the issue decided in the prior case is identical to the one presented in the case currently under consideration; 2) there was a final judgment on the merits in the first action; 3) the party against whom the plea is asserted was a party or is in privity with a party in the prior case; 4) the party or person in privity with the party against whom the doctrine is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding; and 5) the determination in the prior proceeding was essential to the judgment. City of Pittsburgh v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 522 Pa. 44, 559 A.2d 896, 901 (Pa. 1989). All five must be satisfied before issue preclusion attaches.
Plaintiff's case for issue preclusion
Plaintiff's case stumbles before we reach even the first element. The board made no findings of fact nor conclusions of law. Its ruling consists of a bare reversal of the City's decision to terminate plaintiff's employment.
Although Fire Chief Goodbrod listed seven alleged rules infractions as the reasons for plaintiff's discharge, placing the legitimacy of those reasons before the Board, the Board made no finding on any one of the seven.
The Board's decision consists in its entirety of the following statements read into the record at the conclusion of the December 29, 1993 hearing:
...After hearing, we, Raymond L. Danneker, Malvin C. Chilson and John DiMarco, members of the Fire Civil Service Board, do hereby overrule the action of the Fire Chief Randy Goodbrod in the November 24th, 1993 termination and discharge of fire fighter Alden D. Seitzer and uphold his appeal from this termination and discharge. Fire fighter Addend. Seitzer shall be reinstated with full pay for the entire period during which he was prevented from performing his usual employment and no charges shall be recorded against him.
(Record document no. 64, exhibit "C" at pp. 148-49) Compare: Bradley v. Pittsburgh Board of Education, 913 F.2d 1064, 1073 (3d Cir. 1990).
It is impossible for this court to determine from the record before us the basis for the state administrative and judicial rulings. There is nothing to indicate why the Board and the court overruled plaintiff's dismissal and ordered his reinstatement. More importantly, no factual findings were made on the validity of the reasons given by Chief Goodbrod for plaintiff's discharge. Plaintiff seeks to have this court bar defendants from defending this action by asserting any of the seven alleged rules infractions as a basis for the dismissal.
That result would require this court to infer that the reason for the Board's ruling and the court's affirmance was their finding that: 1) plaintiff had not committed the rules infractions alleged; 2) if he did violate departmental rules, the violations were de minimis and not serious enough to warrant his dismissal; or 3) Chief Goodbrod was motivated by other factors.
These is nothing in the record before us to suggest which of these alternatives was the basis for the administrative ruling or the court's affirmance. We would have to speculate in framing an order which would give those rulings the preclusive effect which plaintiff seeks. We cannot base our order on speculation, guess-work or unsupported inferences.
Although this result is unfortunate for the plaintiff, since, had the state court and administrative rulings included factual findings, we would have given them the preclusive effect which we read Edmundson to require.
On the state of the record before us, we have no alternative but to deny the motion due to the absence of factual findings.
* * *
An order will be entered consistent with his memorandum.
James F. McClure, Jr.
United States District Judge
March 15, 1996
For the reasons stated in the accompanying memorandum, IT IS ORDERED THAT:
Plaintiff's motion in limine (record document no. 64) is denied.
James F. McClure, Jr.
United States District Judge