United States District Court, E.D. Washington
MARCUS “MIKE” HARRIS, and BETTY J. “BETS” HARRIS, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
CHELAN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, A DIVISION OF CHELAN COUNTY, A MUNICIPAL ENTITY EXISTING UNDER THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO ESTABLISH
BINDING EFFECT OF ARBITRATOR'S RULING
T. RODGERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
THE COURT is Plaintiffs' “Motion for
Summary Judgment on Application of Arbitration Facts Decided,
and to Exclude All Contrary Argument Under the Doctrine of
Collateral Estoppel, ” ECF No. 51, which the Court has
construed as a motion in limine, ECF No. 73. Scott M. Kane
represents Plaintiffs Marcus “Mike” Harris
(“Harris”) and Betty J. “Bets”
Harris; Defendant is represented by Heather C. Yakely. The
parties have consented to proceed before a magistrate judge.
ECF No. 9.
instant motion asserts Defendant is collaterally estopped
from re-litigating issues previously decided by an
arbitrator, James A. Lundberg. Specifically, Plaintiffs seek
the “offensive” application of collateral
estoppel to prohibit Defendant from presenting evidence or
arguing any facts contrary to the arbitrator's ruling
that no “just cause” existed for Harris'
termination from employment with the Chelan County
estoppel, also known as issue preclusion, prevents
relitigation of an issue of fact or law in a subsequent
proceeding involving the same parties. See San Remo
Hotel, L.P. v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, Cal.,
545 U.S. 323, 336-337 (2005). Pursuant to the Federal Full
Faith and Credit Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, the Court is
required to give full faith and credit to the records and
judicial proceedings of any state court. 28 U.S.C. §
1738. However, case law has established that the plain
language of 28 U.S.C. § 1738 does not require the Court
to give full faith and credit to arbitration proceedings.
McDonald v. City of W. Branch, Mich., 466 U.S. 284,
287-288 (1984); Kremer v. Chem. Constr. Corp., 456
U.S. 461, 477-478 (1982) (holding “[a]rbitration
decisions, of course, are not subject to the mandate of
state administrative proceedings and state courts, the right
to arbitration is a contractual right, not a statutory right.
Kremer, 456 U.S. at 477. “The arbitrator's
specialized competence is ‘the law of the shop, not the
law of the land,' and ‘the factfinding process in
arbitration usually is not equivalent to judicial
factfinding.'” Id. at 478. Arbitration is
not a “judicial proceeding” and, therefore,
Section 1738 does not apply to arbitration awards.
McDonald, 466 U.S. at 288 (holding that “in a
§ 1983 action, a federal court should not afford res
judicata or collateral-estoppel to effect an award in an
arbitration proceeding brought pursuant to the terms of a
collective-bargaining agreement.”); Alexander v.
Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 49, 59-60 (1974)
(holding that arbitration of whether employee was discharged
for just cause was not preclusive of Title VII claims because
collective bargaining agreement did not cover statutory
the Court were to find the arbitration decision in this case
was a “judicial proceeding” and a “final
judgment on the merits, ” the issues raised in the
instant federal lawsuit are not identical to the issues
raised in arbitration. To be given preclusive effect, all
elements of collateral estoppel must exist. The arbitration
addressed only whether Harris was terminated with cause,
while the instant lawsuit raises numerous federal and state
law challenges pertaining to Harris' employment and
termination. Because the causes of action in this lawsuit are
not identical to the issues raised in arbitration, not all of
the elements of collateral estoppel are present. Therefore,
Plaintiffs' request for the Court to apply collateral
estoppel to the entirety of this case is denied.
by way of its response brief to the instant motion, ECF No.
80 at 4-5, and in its motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 60
at 8-11, indicates collateral estoppel is appropriate as a
shield to preclude relitigation of Plaintiffs' state law
wrongful termination claim that was fully heard by the
arbitrator and for which Harris was fully compensated. The
Court declines to discuss this assertion until the pending
cross motions for summary judgment are resolved and a ///
determination is made as to whether the Court will retain
jurisdiction over any remaining state law claims.
on the foregoing, the Court declines to give Arbitrator
Lundberg's findings binding effect. Accordingly,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED Plaintiffs' motion
under the doctrine of collateral estoppel to exclude all
argument contrary to the arbitrator's decision,
ECF No. 51, is DENIED.
IS SO ORDERED.
Washington law provides that collateral
estoppel applies only when the party seeking estoppel can
show that 1) the issues between the first action and the
second are identical, 2) the parties to be estopped in the
second action were parties in the first suit, or are in
privity with parties in the first suit, 3) the first suit
resulted in a final judgment on the merits, and 4) there
would be no injustice if the parties were estopped from
relitigating the issues. See Nielson v. Spanaway General
Medical Clinic, ...