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Froebel v. Meyer

Citation: 30 ELR 20746
No. No. 99-3925, 217 F.3d 928/(7th Cir., 06/28/2000)

The court holds that claim preclusion bars an individual's Clean Water Act (CWA) §§ 402 and 404 suit against a state and state employees for removal of a dam. In state court, the individual challenged the state environmental agency's decision to remove the dam and claimed that remedial steps should be taken to repair damage done to the river due to the dam's removal. The state court held that the state environmental agency acted properly and within its discretion in deciding to remove the dam. The individual then brought suit in federal court against the state environmental agency, state employees, and the county that owned the land where the dam was located claiming violation of CWA §§ 402 and 404. The district court subsequently dismissed the state environmental agency on sovereign immunity grounds.

The court first holds that the individual's prior state court action precludes his federal court action against the state employees because the three requirements of claim preclusion are met. Except for the county, the parties in the federal case are the same as those in the state case. Further, the identity of the causes of action is identical. In the federal case, the individual is complaining about the procedures employed in the removal of the dam, just as he did before the state court. Moreover, although the state court never addressed the individual's CWA claims, his present action against the state employees could have been entertained in the earlier state proceeding, and state officials and courts would have faithfully applied federal standards if the individual had given them the chance.

Counsel for Plaintiff
William S. Roush Jr.
Davis & Kuelthau
111 E. Kilbourn Ave., Ste. 1400, Milwaukee WI 53202
(414) 276-0200

Counsel for Defendants
Phillip Peterson
Attorney General's Office
114 E. State Capitol
P.O. Box 7857, Madison WI 53707
(608) 266-1221

Before Flaum and Easterbrook, JJ.