United States District Court, D. Idaho
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA, SECRETARY OF LABOR, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, ∗Plaintiff,
IDAHO FALLS SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 91, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill Chief Judge
before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 44)
filed by Defendant Idaho Falls School District (the
“District”). Plaintiff R. Alexander Acosta,
Secretary of Labor (the “Secretary”), opposes the
Motion. The Court heard oral argument on August 10, 2017 and
ordered supplemental briefing, which was completed on August
16, 2017. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
deny the motion.
31, 2011, Penny Weymiller filed a whistleblower complaint
with the U.S. Secretary of Labor, alleging that the District
retaliated against her for raising concerns with asbestos
removal plans, in violation of the whistleblower provisions
of the Asbestos ∗ R. Alexander Acosta has
been substituted for his predecessor, Thomas E. Perez, as
Secretary of Labor under Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d). Hazard Emergency
Response Act of 1986 (“AHERA”). The Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”)
investigated Ms. Weymiller's claims and announced its
determination on January 15, 2015. OSHA found that Ms.
Weymiller had been subject to whistleblower retaliation in
violation of both the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) and
AHERA's whistleblower retaliation provisions, there is no
private right of action beyond the filing of a complaint with
the Secretary. However, if the Secretary determines that a
violation has occurred, the statute requires that he file a
complaint in the appropriate United Stated District court. 15
U.S.C. § 2651(b); 29 U.S.C. 660(c)(2). As such, after
OSHA's determination that the District's actions
violated AHERA' whistleblower provisions, the Secretary
filed an action in this Court seeking both individual relief
for Ms. Weymiller, and an injunction ordering the District to
take certain steps to prevent future violations. Dkt. 1.
same time, the Secretary ordered individual relief for Ms.
Weymiller pursuant to OSHA's determination that the
District violated CAA's whistleblower retaliation
provision. Exercising its rights under the CAA, the
District requested a de novo hearing on Ms.
Weymiller's CAA claim before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). On May 2, 2017, ALJ Richard M. Clark
issued his Decision and Order denying Ms. Weymiller's
whistleblower complaint. Dkt. 44-7.
the District sought a writ of mandamus in this Court ordering
the ALJ to dismiss its review of the Secretary's
determination that Ms. Weymiller had been subject to
retaliation under the CAA. This Court declined to intervene,
citing lack of jurisdiction. See Mem. Decision and
Order at 8, Dkt. 28 (finding that the Department of Labor and
the courts of appeals have exclusive jurisdiction over CAA
claims). After the ALJ ruled in favor of the District on Ms.
Weymiller's CAA retaliation claim, neither Ms. Weymiller
or the Secretary sought an appeal, though both had that
right. The District then filed this motion on the grounds
that the Secretary is precluded from pursuing the AHERA claim
based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel.
judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to
any claim or defense, “there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Here, the
parties do not raise any genuine disputes of material fact.
Rather, the District argues that it is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law, because the Secretary's claim is
barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel.
doctrine of collateral estoppel provides that “[w]hen
an issue of fact or law is actually litigated and determined
by a valid and final judgment, and the determination is
essential to the judgment, the determination is conclusive in
a subsequent action between the parties, whether on the same
or a different claim.” Restatement (Second) of
Judgments § 27 (1982). Collateral estoppel applies to
preclude an issue adjudicated in an earlier proceeding if:
(1) the issue was necessarily decided at the previous
proceeding and is identical to the one which is sought to be
relitigated; (2) the first proceeding ended with a final
judgment on the merits; and (3) the party against whom
collateral estoppel is asserted was a party or in privity
with a party at the first proceeding. Reyn's Pasta
Bella, LLC v. Visa USA, Inc., 442 F.3d 741 (9th Cir.
well settled that principles of collateral estoppel may be
applied to administrative adjudications. See Astoria Fed.
Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104, 107
(1991); Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 95 (1980).
Thus, “[w]here an administrative agency has made
relevant factual findings in the course of refusing relief
which [it is authorized] to give, the finality of these
findings, if sufficiently supported, cannot be avoided in a
court action” for the same or similar relief.
United States v. Utah Constr. & Mining Co., 384
U.S. 394, 420 (1966). Congress may limit the preclusive
effect of agency adjudications, however, by providing for
de novo review of a particular claim in federal
court. See Chandler v. Roudebush, 425 U.S. 840
(1976) (finding that a statutory right to district court
civil action entitles a plaintiff to de novo review
of administrative determinations).
District argues that the issues of fact and law underlying
the Secretary's AHERA claim were actually litigated and
determined by final judgment on the merits in the ALJ
proceeding on Ms. Weymiller's CAA claim, and that the
Secretary was in privity with Ms. Weymiller in the CAA
proceeding, such that he should be estopped from pursuing the
AHERA claim. Neither party contests that relevant the issues
of fact and law were actually litigated and determined by
final judgment during the ALJ proceeding.Instead, the
parties contest whether Ms. Weymiller and the Secretary were
in privity. Before addressing this ...