Unpublished Dispositioncurtis L. Wrenn, Plaintiff-appellant, v. State of Ohio, Plaintiff-appellee.curtis L. Wrenn, Plaintiff-appellant, v. John P. Rogers, Official Capacity; Myers Kurtz, Officialcapacity, Defendants-appellees, 838 F.2d 472 (6th Cir. 1988)

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US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit - 838 F.2d 472 (6th Cir. 1988) Feb. 4, 1988



These cases have been referred to a panel of the court pursuant to Rule 9(a), Rules of the Sixth Circuit. Upon examination of the record and the briefs, this panel unanimously agrees that oral argument is not needed. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a).

The plaintiff is a black male hospital administrator. In December of 1979, the plaintiff was employed by the Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH) as superintendent of its Toledo Mental Health Center. A year later, however, the plaintiff was discharged allegedly due to a lack of confidence and trust in his performance. As a result of his discharge, the plaintiff filed the first in a series of Title VII actions pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) alleging employment discrimination based upon his race, age and in retaliation for earlier charges of discrimination he had brought against the defendants. That first action was docketed in the district court for the Northern District of Ohio as case number 81-571 and is now on appeal before this court in appeals 87-3246 and 87-3263.

Soon after filing his initial employment discrimination action, the plaintiff applied for reemployment with the ODMH at several of its other health facilities including the Ohio Veterans' Home and the Lima State Hospital. The ODMH refused to rehire the plaintiff as supervisor at either of the latter two facilities citing its policy of refusing to rehire employees to similar positions from which they had recently been discharged. The plaintiff in response filed two separate actions in which he alleged that the defendants had illegally refused to rehire him based on his race, age and prior discrimination charges against them.

These two Title VII actions are now before this court for review by this panel. The action involving the Ohio Veterans' Home was docketed in the district court as case number 82-7 and has been docketed in this court as appeal number 87-3276. The action involving the Lima State Hospital was docketed in the district court as case number 82-335 and is now before this court as appeal number 87-3276.

In the district court, both of these actions were held in abeyance pending the outcome of plaintiff's initial Title VII action, district court docket number 81-571. That action was ultimately dismissed by the district court on February 5, 1987, by an order which expressly found that the defendants' decision to discharge the plaintiff at the Toledo Mental Health Center was based on legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons which the plaintiff failed to prove were mere pretext for discrimination.

Based on this finding and the doctrine of collateral estoppel, the district court dismissed plaintiff's two Title VII actions now on review. In so doing, the district court concluded that its findings regarding the plaintiff's legitimate discharge at the Toledo Mental Health Center in case number 81-571 conclusively established that the plaintiff was unqualified for employment as supervisor of the Ohio Veterans' Home or the Lima State Hospital. Accordingly, the district court ultimately concluded that the plaintiff had failed to establish a prima facie case of racial, age or retaliatory discrimination.

We now affirm the dismissal of the plaintiff's two Title VII actions, district court docket numbers 82-7 and 82-335. The traditional rules of claim and issue preclusion are applicable to federal litigants in actions pursuant to both Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Kremer v. Chemical Construction Corp., 456 U.S. 461 (1982); Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90 (1980); Loudermill v. Cleveland Board of Educ., 721 F.2d 550, 556-57 (6th Cir. 1983) (discussing Kremer and Allen), aff'd, 470 U.S. 532 (1985). This court recently discussed the proper application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel in Detroit Police Officers' Ass'n v. Young, 824 F.2d 512, 555 (6th Cir. 1987). In Young, we held that four criteria must be satisfied before the doctrine may be applied to bar further litigation on a particular factual issue. Without elaborating on every aspect of those criteria, we conclude that they were satisfied in total in the present appeals.

In essence, the record reveals that the plaintiff was refused employment at the Ohio Veterans' Home and Lima State Hospital for the same reason for which he was terminated as superintendent at the Toledo Mental Health Center--a lack of trust and confidence in plaintiff's performance. The district court in case 81-571 found that this reason was legitimate, nondiscriminatory and not proven to be mere pretext. The defendant had ample opportunity to contest the validity of this reason in case 87-571, but failed to persuade the district court that this legitimate reason was not the true reason for his discharge. Because the legitimacy of the reason for the plaintiff's discharge had been conclusively established and because the identical reason was relied on by the defendants to refuse the plaintiff reemployment, the plaintiff failed to meet his burden of establishing intentional discrimination as required by Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 256 (1981).

This court, moreover, suggested just such a result in an order entered on March 11, 1985, in a related, earlier appeal by the plaintiff, appeal number 84-3228, in which the court noted

That discharge [as superintendent of the Toledo Mental Health Center] could furnish a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for defendants' refusal to consider him [plaintiff] for like positions ... [i]f it were established that the prior discharge was for cause and was itself not motivated by consideration of either Wrenn's race or his participation in protected activity.

The district court expressly found in case 81-571 that plaintiff's discharge was for cause and not motivated by race or retaliation; accordingly, it properly dismissed plaintiff's subsequent Title VII actions in cases 82-7 and 82-335.

The judgments of the district court entered in both actions on February 23, 1987, are affirmed pursuant to Rule 9(b) (5), Rules of the Sixth Circuit.