application of Restatement § 26(1)(c) has much to offer.
The issue here, however, is whether New Jersey courts would give preclusive effect to the appellate ruling, and cases applying New York or Wisconsin law are no more or less controlling than those applying Michigan or Washington law. See McNasby v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 888 F.2d 270, 278 (3d Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 494 U.S. 1066, 110 S. Ct. 1783, 108 L. Ed. 2d 784 (1990). Third Circuit precedent suggests that defendants are entitled to assert a defense of claim preclusion, but those cases applied Pennsylvania law. See Gregory, 843 F.2d at 118-19 (It is not significant that the relief obtainable in the two forums varies to some degree."); Davis v. United States Steel Supply, 688 F.2d 166, 171-74 (3d Cir. 1982) (en banc), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1014, 103 S. Ct. 1256, 75 L. Ed. 2d 484 (1983).
This Court has borrowed the Second Circuit's Davidson reasoning and applied Restatement § 26(1)(c) in a factually dissimilar case decided under New Jersey preclusion law. In Delaware Valley Transplant Program, the Court held that claim preclusion did not apply where a plaintiff, after filing an action in federal court, was forced to proceed in a related state court action on certain claims,
and the state court ruled adversely on those claims. This Court held that, given the nature of the state court forum, the plaintiff never had an opportunity to present its federal constitutional claims in the state court, and therefore the § 26(c)(1) exception to the general rule against claim-splitting supported a finding of no preclusion. See Delaware Valley Transplant Program, 722 F. Supp. at 1194-96. However, the reasoning of that case is inapplicable where, as here, where plaintiff had, and exercised, an opportunity to assert his federal constitutional claims in the state forum.
In short, New Jersey case law does not dictate a particular result, and the Court therefore must predict how the New Jersey Supreme Court would decide the issue if presented with it. In light of the foregoing discussion, particularly the reasoning of the James case, the Court concludes that the New Jersey courts would reject plaintiff's argument that the mere difference in relief sought permits him to relitigate his cause of action, and would instead rule that the critical issue is whether the first court had subject matter jurisdiction to rule on the merits of the claim and did so rule. Because the disposition of plaintiff's appeal is an earlier valid and final judgement in an action involving substantially similar causes of action, parties, and relief, the Court will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.
2. Issue Preclusion
Even if defendants were not entitled to summary judgment on a theory of claim preclusion, they would be so entitled on an alternative theory of issue preclusion. Cf. Marrese, 470 U.S. at 380-81, 105 S. Ct. at 1332, 84 L. Ed. 2d 274 (even if claim is within exclusive jurisdiction of federal courts and thus § 26(1)(c) applies, it still may be given issue preclusive effect); Bradley v. Pittsburgh Bd. of Educ., 913 F.2d 1064, 1070-74 (3d Cir. 1990) (claim preclusion did not bar plaintiff's claims, but issue preclusion did). "When an issue of fact or law is actually litigated and determined by a valid and final judgment, and the determination is essential to the judgment, the determination is conclusive in a subsequent action between the parties, whether on the same or a different claim." Restatement § 27; see, e.g., Jalil v. Avdel Corp., 873 F.2d 701, 704 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing Colucci v. Thomas Nicol Asphalt Co., 194 N.J. Super. 510, 515, 477 A.2d 403 A.d 403, 406 ([App. Div.] 1984)), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1023, 110 S. Ct. 725, 107 L. Ed. 2d 745 (1990).
Although defendants did not in their moving papers rely on issue preclusion as such, plaintiff in opposing the motion addressed the only element of the doctrine that is significant here: whether he was afforded a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issues he now raises. See Peduto v. City of N. Wildwood, 878 F.2d 725, 728 (3d Cir. 1989).
Plaintiff argues that issue preclusion should not apply because he was not afforded such an opportunity. In support of this conclusion, he stresses that he merely sought review of an administrative determination in state court, as opposed to instituting an action there. He quotes a recent opinion where this Court noted that:
In New Jersey, courts have a limited role in reviewing agency decisions. . . . An appellate court will not reverse the decision of an administrative agency unless it is arbitrary, unreasonable, capricious, lacks fair support in the evidence, or violates legislative policies. . . . The Appellate Division has jurisdiction only to review the agency decision and cannot entertain new claims for the first time on appeal.
Delaware Valley Transplant Program, 722 F. Supp. at 1195 (citations omitted). As explained above, however, that case presented the "relatively unique procedural posture" of a plaintiff that filed an action in federal court, but was required by the Eleventh Amendment to institute a later, related, action in the Appellate Division to obtain review of an administrative determination. See id. at 1191 n.5, 1193, 1196 n.11. Thus, it was entirely consistent with other cases holding that when a party files an action in federal court but then is forced to proceed in state court he is not bound by state court decisions that failed to address his federal claims. See, e.g., Ivy Club v. Edwards, 943 F.2d 270, 280-84 (3d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, U.S. , 112 S. Ct. 1282, 117 L. Ed. 2d 507 (1992).
Here, by contrast, plaintiff was not forced to appeal to the state court, and his federal claims were addressed. It was only after any an adverse ruling in that forum that he filed his federal action. Moreover, while it bay be true that the Appellate Division did not exercise de novo review over the claims, the Supreme Court has held that state court review of an administrative determination may be given preclusive effect in subsequent federal actions. See Kremer v. Chemical Constr. Corp., 456 U.S. 461, 479-85, 102 S. Ct. 1883, 1896-99, 72 L. Ed. 2d 262 (1982); see also University of Tennessee v. Elliott, 478 U.S. 788, 796-99, 106 S. Ct. 3220, 3225-26, 92 L. Ed. 2d 635 (1986) (suggesting that even unreviewed administrative determinations may have preclusive effect in subsequent § 1983 actions).
Under New Jersey law, judicial review, even if limited, of a nonjudicial body's action also is given preclusive effect. See Zoneraich v. Overlook Hospital, 212 N.J. Super. 83, 90-92, 514 A.2d 53, 56-58 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 107 N.C. 32, 526 A.2d 126 (1986). Moreover, other courts have concluded that it is appropriate to give issue preclusive effect to state appellate review of disciplinary proceedings. See Gross v. Heikien, 957 F.2d 531 (8th Cir. 1992) (Iowa law), petition for cert. filed, July 6, 1992 (No. 92-5135); McClure v. Santos, 669 F. Supp. 344 (D. Or. 1987), aff'd, 878 F.2d 386 (9th Cir. 1989).
It does not of course follow that "any state court decision reviewing an administrative action necessarily bars federal suit." Jones, 757 F.2d at 886 (emphasis added); see McNasby, 888 F.2d at 278 ("Kremer merely held that preclusion can attach after limited judicial review of administrative proceedings.") (emphasis in original). The touchstone in every case is whether the reviewing court necessarily addressed those questions which were dispositive of plaintiff's claim. Compare Jalil, 873 F.2d at 705-06 (state court review of arbitrator's decision not given preclusive effect) with Rider v. Pennsylvania, 850 F.2d 982, 991 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 993, 109 S. Ct. 556, 102 L. Ed. 2d 582 (1988) (state court review of arbitrator's decision given preclusive effect). Plaintiff's complaint raises no claim that the appellate review procedures he invoked under state law are constitutionally infirm,
and the Court has "little doubt that [he] received all the process that was constitutionally required" in disposing of the appeal. Kremer, 456 U.S. at 48. Therefore, the Court concludes that the claims he now raises are barred by issue preclusion and that defendants are entitled to summary judgment.
There may be instances where an inmate has both state and federal claims arising out of a prison disciplinary proceeding, and he desires to litigate his state law claims in state court and preserve his federal claims for federal adjudication. He may do so and avoid application of claim preclusion, though perhaps not of issue preclusion. See Ivy Club, 943 F.2d at 281-84; Bradley, 913 F.2d at 1070-74. In instances such as this one, though, where a plaintiff has but one cause of action which he brings before the state appellate court, he may not later disclaim the finding of the state court and relitigate the cause of action here. See Gregory, 343 F.2d at 120.
For the foregoing reasons,
It is this 22nd day of September, 1992,
ORDERED that defendants' motion for summary judgment be and is hereby GRANTED.
GARRETT E. BROWN, JR., U.S.D.J.