Cox v. Nueces County, TX, No. 16-40141 (5th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs, former employees of the County, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, after they were reassigned, and later terminated, from their positions allegedly because they failed to support the sheriff's reelection. Plaintiffs also filed grievances with the Nueces County Civil Service Commission, alleging only that they were subjected to adverse employment actions in violation of county rules prohibiting such actions on grounds of participating or failing to participate in political activity. The state court affirmed the Commission's decision against plaintiffs. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on claim-preclusion grounds. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court applied the law of res judicata incorrectly, and that res judicata was inappropriate because plaintiffs had deliberately abstained from litigating their federal claims in state court. The court rejected plaintiffs' arguments and concluded that, because plaintiffs could and should have brought these claims in their state suit, their stated reasons for not doing so are inadequate to prevent res judicata. The court also rejected plaintiffs' claim of abstention. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.