Because of what he termed a classic “Catch-22,” a federal judge has ruled that a government employee who appeals his demotion to the state civil service commission and through the state courts cannot later file suit in federal court to bring new constitutional and whistleblower claims.

In his 12-page opinion in Villela v. City of Philadelphia, U.S. District Judge Herbert J. Hutton ruled that under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a plaintiff who never raised any constitutional claims before the state courts is nonetheless barred from doing so later in federal court since the state courts would have entertained them.

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