Giragosian v. Ryan

Decision Date10 November 2008
Docket NumberNo. 08-1067.,08-1067.
Citation547 F.3d 59
PartiesPaul S. GIRAGOSIAN, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. Frederick RYAN and Town of Arlington, MA, Defendants, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Dean Carnahan, for appellant.

Edward M. Marlenga, for appellees.

Before TORRUELLA, BALDOCK,* and LIPEZ, Circuit Judges.

BALDOCK, Circuit Judge.

Appellant Paul Giragosian owned and operated a gun shop in Arlington, Massachusetts for approximately thirty-one years. In March 2007, Arlington's Chief of Police, Frederick Ryan, revoked and forfeited appellant's licenses to carry and sell firearms. Subsequently, appellant filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit in federal district court alleging that Ryan and the Town of Arlington violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court granted appellees' motion to dismiss.

The issues before us on appeal are (1) whether appellant's § 1983 claims are barred by res judicata, and (2) whether the district court erred by converting appellees' motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm on the basis of claim preclusion.1


In addition to selling firearms at his gun shop in Arlington, Massachusetts, appellant conducted training sessions on the use of firearms. In January 2007, while appellant was training a customer to use a handgun, the customer intentionally shot himself in the head, dying as a result of the wound.

On the same day of the incident, the Arlington Police Department conducted an investigation and concluded that appellant was not at fault for the customer's suicide. One day later, appellee Frederick Ryan, Arlington's Chief of Police, suspended appellant's licenses to carry and sell firearms, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws chapter 140, pending further investigation by the Arlington Police Department and the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office. Ryan also requested that the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") investigate appellant's business for any potential violations of federal law.

Appellant subsequently challenged the suspension of his licenses in Massachusetts state court. In March 2007, after the Arlington Police Department and the Middlesex District Attorney completed their investigations confirming that appellant was not at fault for the customer's suicide, the Cambridge District Court granted appellant's request to vacate the license suspensions.

Rather than reinstating the licenses, Ryan sent a letter to appellant revoking appellant's licenses to carry firearms and forfeiting his dealer licenses. Ryan's letter listed several reasons for the revocations and forfeitures, including, but not limited to, (1) failure to report stolen firearms, (2) failure to undergo a firearms safety instructor course mandated by the Massachusetts state court following a similar customer suicide in 2002, and (3) various violations of state and federal law found during the ATF investigation requested by Ryan.2

In April 2007, appellant filed a § 1983 action in federal district court alleging Ryan and the Town of Arlington violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Appellant sought reinstatement of his firearms licenses pursuant to Massachusetts law and damages under § 1983. One day later, appellant filed a separate action in state court also seeking reinstatement of his firearms licenses.

In May 2007, as the state and federal actions proceeded simultaneously, appellant filed a motion in federal district court for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") to enjoin the state court from ruling until the conclusion of the federal case. Appellant argued that the state court judge "greeted Defendant Ryan with an excess of cordiality," demonstrating the state court's "bias and favoritism" towards Ryan. The district court denied appellant's motion.

In June 2007 the state court refused reinstatement of appellant's licenses, finding "sufficient grounds to conclude that the decision of [Ryan] in revoking [appellant's] firearms licenses was reasonable and not arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion." See Giragosian v. Ryan, No. 07-10730 (Mass. Dist. Ct. June 7, 2007). Following the state-court's ruling, a federal magistrate judge requested supplemental briefing from the parties regarding the state-court judgment's effect on appellees' pending motion to dismiss. Appellees' argued in their supplemental memorandum that the state-court judgment barred appellant's federal cause of action pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata (both issue and claim preclusion). Appellant argued the federal district court should ignore the state-court judgment because of the state court judge's lack of impartiality and numerous errors of law.

In August 2007, the federal magistrate judge recommended the district court grant appellees' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. The magistrate judge ruled (1) issue preclusion barred the federal district court from reexamining whether Ryan's actions were arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion, (2) the post-deprivation review process available in state court provided appellant adequate process, and (3) qualified immunity shielded Ryan and the Town of Arlington from suit. The district court rejected the magistrate judge's recommendation as to qualified immunity. The district court ruled that the federal magistrate judge relied on information outside the four corners of the complaint in finding qualified immunity. Thus, that issue could only be resolved on a motion for summary judgment. The district court, however, agreed with the magistrate judge's conclusion that appellant failed to "state a cause of action for a violation of due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution or Fourth Amendment rights." Accordingly, the district court granted appellees' motion to dismiss.


The issues we address on appeal concern the legal sufficiency of appellant's complaint. Our review, therefore, is de novo. See Torromeo v. Town of Fremont, 438 F.3d 113, 115 (1st Cir.2006). We, like the district court, assume the truth of all well-pled facts and give appellant the benefit of all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom. See Alvarado Aguilera v. Negrón, 509 F.3d 50, 52 (1st Cir.2007).


We first consider whether appellant's § 1983 action is barred by the doctrine of res judicata. "Disposition of [a] federal action, once [a] state-court adjudication is complete, [is] governed by preclusion law." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 293, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005). "Under the full faith and credit statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, a judgment rendered in a state court is entitled to the same preclusive effect in federal court as it would be given within the state in which it was rendered." In re Sonus Networks Inc., 499 F.3d 47, 56 (1st Cir.2007) (citing Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 81, 104 S.Ct. 892, 79 L.Ed.2d 56 (1984)). Therefore, we look to Massachusetts law to determine the preclusive effect of the state-court judgment. Id.

In Massachusetts, res judicata encompasses both claim preclusion and issue preclusion. Id. (citing Kobrin v. Bd. of Registration in Med., 444 Mass. 837, 832 N.E.2d 628, 634 (Mass.2005)). Claim preclusion prevents the relitigation of all claims that a "litigant had the opportunity and incentive to fully litigate ... in an earlier action." Id. Massachusetts evaluates three elements under the doctrine of claim preclusion: "(1) the identity or privity of the parties to the present and prior actions; (2) identity of the cause[s] of action; and (3) a prior final judgment on the merits." McDonough v. City of Quincy, 452 F.3d 8, 16 (1st Cir.2006). When assessing the second element of claim preclusion, Massachusetts courts find "[c]auses of action [to be] identical if they `derive[] from the same transaction or series of connected transactions.'" Id. (quoting TLT Const. Corp. v. A. Anthony Tappe & Assoc., 48 Mass.App.Ct. 1, 716 N.E.2d 1044, 1052 (Mass.App.Ct.1999)).

While Massachusetts' case law does not directly address the relevance of the order in which parallel actions are filed, the general rule is that "when two actions are pending which are based on the same claim, or which involve the same issue, it is the final judgment first rendered in one of the actions which becomes conclusive in the other action ..., regardless of which action was first brought." Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 14, cmt. a (1982); see also Blair v. Equifax Check Servs., Inc., 181 F.3d 832, 838 (7th Cir.1999) ("When the cases proceed in parallel, the first to reach judgment controls the other through claim preclusion (res judicata)."); Hogue v. Royse City, 939 F.2d 1249, 1255 (5th Cir.1991) ("[B]ecause a later-filed claim can be preclusive of an earlier-filed claim, simultaneous filing of multiple claims in different forums based on the same cause of action will not avoid the application of res judicata.").

While parallel litigation may force a court to "recognize the claim- and issue-preclusive effects of a state-court judgment, ... federal jurisdiction over an action does not terminate automatically on the entry of judgment in the state court." Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at 293, 125 S.Ct. 1517 (internal quotation omitted). Application of res judicata "should be addressed from the perspective of fairness and efficient judicial administration since the doctrine of claim preclusion is not applied rigidly where such interests would not be served." Tinkham v. Jenny Craig, Inc., 45 Mass.App.Ct. 567, 699 N.E.2d 1255, 1258 (Mass.App.Ct.1998).

With such concerns in mind, we proceed to consider the applicability of claim preclusion to the present case.3 Following the revocations and forfeitures of his various...

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