United States District Court, D. Minnesota
GREGOIRE M. NLEME, Plaintiff,
WALDEN UNIVERSITY, Defendant.
N. ERICKSEN United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) issued by the Honorable Tony N.
Leung, United States Magistrate Judge, on November 4, 2016.
(Docket No. 4.) The R&R was issued in response to
Plaintiff Gregoire M. Nleme's application to proceed in
forma pauperis in his suit against Defendant Walden
University. (See Dkt. No. 2.) This is not the first
time Nleme has sued Walden University; Nleme previously
brought an action in this Court, asserting four claims for
discrimination under federal law. See Nleme v. Walden
Univ., No. 15-CV-471 (JNE/TNL), 2016 WL 158518 (D. Minn.
Jan. 13, 2016). These claims were dismissed on January 13,
2016. See Id. The pending, second action, now before
the Court, again alleges that Walden University discriminated
against Nleme and asserts claims under both federal and state
law. (See Dkt. No. 1.)
R&R recommends that the action be summarily dismissed
with prejudice because most claims are barred by collateral
estoppel or res judicata, and the claim not barred by res
judicata is insufficiently pled. (See Dkt. No. 4.)
The R&R also recommends denying Nleme's application
to proceed in forma pauperis because the Complaint fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted. (See
id.) Neither party objected to the R&R.
Nevertheless, the Court has conducted a de novo review of the
record. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b)(3); D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3). Based on that review, the
Court accepts the R&R's recommend disposition.
However, the Court modifies the reasoning underlying the
disposition as follows.
Nleme's first action, three of his federal discrimination
claims were dismissed with prejudice. These claims arose
under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal
Education Opportunities Act of 1974, and the Civil Rights Act
of 1991 (the “Original Three Claims”). In this
second action, Nleme again asserts discrimination claims
under these same Acts (the “Renewed Three
Claims”). The R&R determined that the Original
Three Claims and the Renewed Three Claims are similar because
they involve the same set of facts. The R&R then reasoned
that collateral estoppel bars litigation of the Renewed Three
Claims. (Dkt. No. 4.) However, the Renewed Three Claims are
barred by res judicata.
Supreme Court has articulated when collateral estoppel or res
Under the doctrine of res judicata, a judgment on the merits
in a prior suit bars a second suit involving the same parties
or their privies based on the same cause of action.
Under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, on the other hand,
the second action is upon a different cause of
action and the judgment in the prior suit precludes
relitigation of issues actually litigated and
necessary to the outcome of the first action.
Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 326 n.5
(1979) (emphasis added); see also Lane v. Peterson,
899 F.2d 737, 741 (8th Cir. 1990) (quoting
Parklane). Thus, res judicata is often referred to
as “claim preclusion” because it precludes the
relitigation of causes of actions (claims), whereas
collateral estoppel is referred to as “issue
preclusion” because it precludes the relitigation of
factual or legal issues. See Baker by Thomas v. Gen.
Motors Corp., 522 U.S. 222, 233 n.5 (1998);
Lane, 899 F.2d at 741 n.3.
the R&R concluded that the Renewed Three Claims (rather
than relitigation of any issues) are barred, res judicata was
the proper doctrine to apply in this case. See Lane,
899 F.2d at 742. (affirming dismissal, but
substituting res judicata for collateral estoppel as the
reason why claims were precluded); see also Taylor v.
Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008) (“[C]laim
preclusion . . . forecloses ‘successive litigation of
the very same claim, whether or not relitigation of the claim
raises the same issues as the earlier suit.'”);
Welk v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n, 561 F.
App'x 577, 578-79 (8th Cir. 2014) (unpublished) (stating
that because the same claim was being considered a second
time, only claim preclusion applied).
judicata bars the reassertion of claims if three requirements
are met: “(1) the prior judgment was rendered by a
court of competent jurisdiction; (2) the decision was a final
judgment on the merits; and (3) the same cause of action and
the same parties or their privies were involved in both
cases.” United States v. Brekke, 97 F.3d 1043,
1047 (8th Cir. 1996). Causes of action are the same if they
involve claims that arise out of the same nucleus of
operative facts. See Lane, 899 F.2d at 742 (adopting
the definition in Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 24
Renewed Three Claims are barred by res judicata. First, the
Court had jurisdiction over the prior action under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331. Second, the Original Three Claims were dismissed
on the merits for failure to state a claim, and the judgment
has since become final. See Federated Dep't Stores,
Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394, 399 n.3 (1981) (“The
dismissal for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is a ‘judgment on the
merits.'”). Third, the parties are the same. And
the Renewed Three Claims are the same causes of action as the
Original Three Claims; they involve the same claims and
nucleus of operative facts. Therefore, res judicata bars the
Renewed Three Claims.
the Court agrees with the R&R's reasoning that the
other claims in this second action-with the exception of the
Title VI claim-are barred by res judicata. However, the Court
disagrees with the R&R's determination that both
Minnesota and federal res judicata doctrines must be
considered. The R&R reasoned that both doctrines must be
considered because this second action's claims “are
brought pursuant to both federal and state law, and this
Court's jurisdiction under both 28 U.S.C. §§
1331 and 1332 is invoked.” (Dkt. No. 4 at 4.) However,
the Court's current grounds for jurisdiction do not
decide which res judicata doctrine to apply.
law governs the issue of res judicata when the question is
the preclusive effect of a judgment on claims arising under
federal law, rendered by a federal court. See
Taylor, 553 U.S. at 891; Poe v. John Deere Co.,
695 F.2d 1103, 1105 (8th Cir. 1982). State res judicata
doctrine governs when state law supplied the rule of decision
to a federal court sitting in diversity in the prior action.
See Semtek Int'l Inc. v. Lockheed Martin Corp.,
531 U.S. 497, 508-09 (2001); Hillary v. Trans World
Airlines, Inc., 123 F.3d 1041, 1043 (8th Cir. 1997).
Nleme's first action was in federal court and involved
only federal claims. Therefore, federal law governs the
preclusive effect of the first action's judgment, and
Minnesota's res judicata doctrine is inapplicable.
See Poe, 695 F.2d at 1105. Notwithstanding this, the
R&R adequately applied federal res judicata doctrine in
determining that the other claims are barred.
IT IS ORDERED THAT:
action is summarily DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE under 28 ...