Schiavulli v. Aubin

Citation504 F. Supp. 483
Decision Date17 December 1980
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 76-0373.
PartiesAlfredine SCHIAVULLI v. John J. AUBIN et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island

504 F. Supp. 483

John J. AUBIN et al.

Civ. A. No. 76-0373.

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island.

December 17, 1980.

504 F. Supp. 484

Thomas E. Wright, Warren, R. I., for plaintiff.

Robert S. Ciresi, North Providence, R. I., for defendants.


PETTINE, Chief Judge.

In this action, a former North Providence, Rhode Island school teacher claims that her dismissal in early 1971 deprived her of liberty and property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1343. The determinative issue is whether the doctrine of res judicata bars plaintiff's action in this Court. Because plaintiff already has received a full and fair opportunity to litigate her claims against defendant School Committee of North Providence in the Rhode Island administrative and judicial system, and because plaintiff has been afforded back pay and conditional reinstatement pursuant to the state determinations, I hereby dismiss this action insofar as it involves members of the School Committee. However, because the former Superintendent of the North Providence Schools was not a party to and was not in privity with a party to the state proceedings, I conclude that res judicata does not bar plaintiff's claims against him.


Prior to the 1970-71 school year, plaintiff taught for thirteen years in the North Providence School District. During the summer recess of 1970 she was informed by the certification section of the Rhode Island Board of Regents that her teaching certification would not be renewed because she had failed to present proof of successful completion of six semester hours of study called for by local regulations. Responding to this notification, plaintiff conferred with the Superintendent of Schools and requested a leave of absence from her teaching assignment during the first half of the 1970-71 school year for the purpose of completing the certification requirements. The Superintendent informed her that he would notify the local School Committee of her request and asked that she reduce such request to writing. Plaintiff then wrote a letter requesting a temporary leave of absence and delivered it to the Superintendent. Assuming that the Superintendent had taken care of her request, and because she was never advised to the contrary, plaintiff did not report to her assigned classroom when the school year began. Instead, she began a course of study designed to satisfy the requirements for renewal of her teaching certificate.

Upon completion of the necessary educational regimen, and after reacquiring her teaching certificate, plaintiff returned to her Superintendent and requested a teaching assignment for the final half of the 1970-71 school year. After a period of inaction on the part of the Superintendent and the School Committee regarding her request, plaintiff's union filed a grievance on her behalf. Ultimately the School Committee refused to reassign plaintiff on

504 F. Supp. 485
grounds that she left her assignment without first receiving approval of her request for a leave of absence. Pursuant to R.I. G.L. § 16-13-4 plaintiff appealed this decision, first, to the State Commissioner of Education, second, to the Board of Regents of Education, and, then, to the Rhode Island Superior Court. All of these tribunals affirmed the School Committee's refusal to reassign. Finally, upon appeal of the Superior Court decision to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, plaintiff obtained a reversal of the decision of the local School Committee. The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that, as a matter of state law, the School Committee was estopped to deny the validity of plaintiff's absence from school during the first half of the 1970-71 school year. Hence, upon her return, plaintiff should have been treated like any other teacher returning from an authorized leave of absence. Schiavulli v. School Committee of the Town of North Providence, 114 R.I. 443, 451, 334 A.2d 416, 420 (1975) (Schiavulli I). Accordingly, the Supreme Court remanded the action to the Superior Court for appropriate action. After a further series of remands, the case was scheduled for hearing before the Rhode Island Associate Commissioner of Education. After a full evidentiary hearing, the Commissioner held that upon acquisition of a valid teaching certificate, plaintiff was to be reinstated as a teacher in the North Providence School District and awarded back pay of $54,448.65 for the years during which, but for the School Committee's original inaction, she could have been teaching in the district. The Commissioner did not grant plaintiff's request for damages for mental, emotional and physical distress; for exemplary damages, for counsel fees, or for interest on the money due her. Upon receipt of the Commissioner's decision, plaintiff commenced this action in Federal Court alleging that by refusing to reassign her to a teaching position in 1971, the School Committee and the Superintendent of Schools deprived her of certain constitutional rights. Concurrently with the commencement of the Federal action, plaintiff appealed the Commissioner's decision and award to the Rhode Island Superior Court. In 1978, the Superior Court upheld the Commissioner's action, Schiavulli v. School Committee of the Town of North Providence, No. 72-1773 (Schiavulli II), and in 1979, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island denied certiorari


The crucial issue in this proceeding reduces itself to the question whether plaintiff, having run the State's procedural gamut not once, but twice, now may litigate in this Court her claim that the original actions of Superintendent of the North Providence schools and of the North Providence School Committee—terminating her employment relationship with the North Providence School District—deprived her of rights afforded by the United States Constitution.

Cases addressing the issue in this circuit have held that, even in the context of § 1983 actions, res judicata bars the relitigation in federal court of all grounds for relief that might have been, but were not, raised in prior state proceedings. See Fernandez v. Trias Monge, 586 F.2d 848, 854 (1st Cir. 1978); Ramirez Pluguez v. Cole, 571 F.2d 70, 71 (1st Cir. 1978) (per curiam); Lovely v. LaLiberte, 498 F.2d 1261, 1263-64 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 419 U.S. 1038, 95 S.Ct. 526, 42 L.Ed.2d 316 (1974). This line of precedent accords fully with the traditional application of the doctrine of res judicata by Rhode Island courts,1 and with the apparent position of

504 F. Supp. 486
the United States Supreme Court that the doctrine applies "fully" in § 1983 cases. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 497, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 1840, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973).2

To decide if res judicata bars relitigation in this case, I must determine whether the traditional criteria for its application have been met. The Supreme Court of the United States has stated:

The general rule of res judicata applies to repetitious suits involving the same cause of action. It rests upon considerations of economy of judicial time and public policy favoring the establishment of certainty in legal relations. The rule provides that when a court of competent jurisdiction has entered a final judgment on the merits of a cause of action, the parties to the suit and their privies are thereafter bound "not only as to every matter which was offered and received to sustain or defeat the claim or demand, but as to any other admissible matter which might have been offered for that purpose." Cromwell v. County of Sac, 94 U.S. 351, 352, 24 L.Ed. 195. The judgment puts an end to the cause of action, which cannot again be brought into litigation between the parties upon any ground whatever ....
Commissioner v. Sunnen, 333 U.S. 591, 597, 68 S.Ct. 715, 719, 92 L.Ed. 898 (1948). See Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 153-54, 99 S.Ct. 970, 973-74, 59 L.Ed.2d 210 (1979) (discussing res judicata and collateral estoppel).

Hence, in deciding whether the prior state determination bars the § 1983 action in this Court, I must decide 1) whether the first and second actions involve the same parties, or their privies; 2) whether the first and second actions comprise the same cause of action; and 3) whether a court of competent jurisdiction has entered a final judgment on the merits of the cause of action. If plaintiff's successive suits satisfy these prerequisites, she will be barred from raising, in her federal court action, any matter that was or might have been raised in the state proceedings.

Plaintiff asserts constitutional claims against members of the School Committee of North Providence as well as against the former Superintendent of the North Providence Schools, Mr. John Maguire. For purposes

504 F. Supp. 487
of analyzing the res judicata implications of plaintiff's action, I will first discuss her claim against the School Committee members, and then her claim against Mr. Maguire


Plaintiff's action against the School Committee clearly involves the same parties that were implicated in the previous state proceedings. Plaintiff does not dispute this and, in fact, admits it in her brief.

Furthermore, insofar as they concern actions of the School Committee members, plaintiff's successive suits arose from the same cause of action. The state and the federal actions involve the "same operative nucleus of fact." Lovely v. LaLiberte, 498 F.2d at 1263; see Fernandez v. Trias Monge, 586 F.2d at 854 (two actions involving "identical facts"). In her § 1983 action, plaintiff seeks to recover for the identical School Committee actions that were the subject of the previous state administrative and judicial proceedings. In the action currently pending before this Court, plaintiff merely alters her theory of...

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4 cases
  • Moorman v. Wood
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Kentucky
    • December 17, 1980
  • Russo v. Baxter Healthcare Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island
    • January 9, 1996
    ...576, 583 (1st Cir. 1995) (applying federal law of res judicata, which uses the same standards as Rhode Island law); Schiavulli v. Aubin, 504 F.Supp. 483, 487 (D.R.I.1980). The First Circuit has outlined several factors which courts may weigh in determining whether two transactions are based......
  • D'Amario v. Butler Hosp.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • December 10, 1990
    ...and 3) whether a court of competent jurisdiction has entered a final judgment on the merits of the cause of action." Schiavulli v. Aubin, 504 F.Supp. 483, 486 (D.R.I.1980). D'Amario concedes that the first two requirements are met here. As to the third, it is well settled under Rhode Island......
  • In re Daam, Civil Action No. 90-0128-T (D. R.I. 3/__/1992), Civil Action No. 90-0128-T.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island
    • March 1, 1992 judgment on the merits in the prior action. D'Amario v. Butler Hosp., 921 F.2d 8, 10 (1st Cir. 1990) (quoting Schiavulli v. Aubin, 504 F. Supp. 483, 486 (D.R.I. 1980)). See also Manego v. Orleans Bd. of Trade, 773 F.2d at 5-7; Capraro v. Tilcon Gammino, Inc., 751 F.2d 56, 58-59 (1st C......

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