Superintendent’s Lawsuit For improper Discharge Should Have Been Filed In State Court, Federal Court Says

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A federal trial court recently held that a superintendent’s lawsuit for improper discharge in violation of her constitutional due process rights and in breach of her employment contract was not proper for federal court review, because the Illinois common law writ of certiorari provides adequate relief for such claims.

In Fostiak v. Byron Community Unit School District 226, Margaret Fostiak, former superintendent for District 226, sued the District and its individual School Board members after being dismissed from her position. Fostiak alleged that the District and Board’s actions violated her due process rights under the federal constitution, which relate to the property interest she had in her continued employment through her contract with the District.

The court determined that because an adequate state law remedy was available to Fostiak, she could not bring her suit in federal court. In order to prevail on a due process claim, Fostiak had to show that the state failed to provide adequate remedies to her. But an adequate state remedy existed, the court found—Fostiak just failed to pursue it. Specifically, the common law writ of certiorari would have allowed a state court to review Fostiak’s dismissal and to overturn it if it was found to be arbitrary and capricious. Because Fostiak failed to pursue that remedy before bringing her federal claims, and failed to show that the remedy was inadequate, she could not bring a due process claim in federal court. 

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