Once a civil case is settled, it is typically over. Courts do not allow second bites at the litigation apple. Settlement serves to manage risks and costs and overall promotes the economies of the judicial system. It is an often used and favored mechanism for resolving a civil dispute.
A Chicago federal district court judge recently employed these venerable principles in Green v. Illinois State Bd., Case No. 19 CV 5181. Robert Green was employed by East Aurora School District 131, was terminated in 2007 and then reinstated. He filed suit and his case was dismissed in 2010 pursuit to a settlement. He was terminated again in 2013. A hearing officer upheld his termination in 2015. Green filed suit again alleging race discrimination and retaliation relating to his prior terminations. The second suit was dismissed in 2016 pursuant to a settlement agreement between the parties. In 2019, he filed a third federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that he was subjected to a hostile work environment, harassment, abuse, and discrimination due to his race and age during his 20 years of employment. He sought to have the court declare both prior settlements null and void.
The district court didn’t buy what Green was selling. Green was barred from suing again based on the doctrine of res judicata, also called claim preclusion. This doctrine prohibits a plaintiff from re-litigating claims that were disposed of in prior litigation. The doctrine also precludes a plaintiff from re-litigating claims he could have, but did not bring, so long as the parties are the same, the claims arose out of the same set of operative facts, and there was a final judgment on the merits in the prior litigation. Those conditions were met. In the prior cases, Green raised his employment woes and his claims were dismissed pursuant to settlements. In both settlements, he also released the school district and its employees and agents from any and all claims relating to his employment with the district. Having had two bites at the apple, the court refused to give him a third.
The School District Defendants were represented by Mike Bersani.