Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Winebow imports and distributes wines to downstream wholesalers. It wants to cut its ties with two wholesale distributors, which have had the exclusive right to sell and distribute Winebow products within specified regions of Wisconsin. The distributors claim that the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law bars Winebow from doing so—at least without any financial penalty. Under the Law, certain sellers (Wis. Stat. 135.02(5)) unilaterally may stop doing business with their existing distributors only if they have “good cause.” The Law does not regulate all grantor-distributor relationships. In 1999, the Wisconsin General Assembly sought to broaden the Law to ensure that all “intoxicating liquor” dealerships were protected. It included changes in the state’s budget bill, which amended the definition of a “dealership” so that large-volume distributors of “intoxicating liquor” were brought under the umbrella of the statute’s definition of a protected “dealership.” Several changes never came into effect, because then-Governor Thompson objected to treating wine dealerships the same as other alcohol dealerships. He partially vetoed the appropriations bill, striking significant portions of the changes to the Law. In Winebow’s declaratory judgment action, the Seventh Circuit certified to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin the question whether wine dealerships are automatically to be considered as “intoxicating liquor” dealerships for purposes of the Law. View "Winebow, Inc. v. Capitol-Husting Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, African-Americans, worked for Union Pacific as “Signal Helpers,” an entry‐level job. After a probationary period, both became eligible for promotion. Union Pacific did not respond to their requests to take a required test, then eliminated the Signal Helper position in their zones. Both were terminated. They filed charges with the EEOC. After receiving notification from the EEOC, Union Pacific provided some information but failed to respond to a request for company-wide information, despite issuance of a subpoena. The EEOC issued right‐to‐sue letters, 42 U.S.C. 2000e‐5(f)(1). Plaintiffs sued. The district court granted Union Pacific summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While that action was pending, the EEOC issued Union Pacific a second request for information, served a second subpoena, and brought an enforcement action. The district court denied Union Pacific’s motion to dismiss, rejecting its arguments that the EEOC lost its investigatory authority either after the issuance of a right to sue notice or when Union Pacific obtained a judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting a split in the Circuits. Given the EEOC’s broad role in preventing employment discrimination, including its independent authority to investigate charges of discrimination, especially at a company‐wide level, neither the issuance of a right‐to‐sue letter nor the entry of judgment in a lawsuit brought by individuals bars the EEOC from continuing its own investigation. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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In 2011, Plaintiffs, former arbitrators for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, brought a due process action challenging the implementation of a workers’ compensation reform statute that terminated their six‐year appointments under prior law. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a clearly established right that was violated. While that suit was pending, the Illinois governor declined to reappoint Plaintiffs, which ended their employment. Two years later, Plaintiffs filed suit against the governor and his advisors, alleging retaliation for filing the prior suit and that the retaliation violated the First Amendment. The district court dismissed plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims, holding that the Due Process Suit was not protected speech. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, declining decide whether the Due Process Suit was speech on a matter of public concern as is required for a government employee to show retaliation in violation of the First Amendment. Plaintiffs’ claims fail because Plaintiffs were policymakers who could be not reappointed for engaging in “speech on a matter of public concern in a manner that is critical of superiors or their stated policies.” View "Hagan v. Quinn" on Justia Law

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Emerald had an Illinois gaming license to operate in East Dubuque. Emerald operated profitably in 1993 but then struggled to compete with an Iowa casino. By 1996, Emerald had closed the casino and was lobbying for an act that would allow it to relocate. The Board denied Emerald’s license renewal application. While an appeal was pending, 230 ILCS 10/11.2 was enacted, permitting relocation. In 1998, before the enactment, defendants met with Rosemont’s mayor and representatives of Rosemont corporations about moving to Rosemont. After the enactment, the parties memorialized the terms of Emerald’s relocation. Emerald did not disclose the agreements as required by Illinois Gaming Board rules. By October 1999, Emerald had contracts with construction companies and architecture firms but had not disclosed them. Emerald altered its ownership structure; several new “investors” had connections to Rosemont’s mayor and state representative. stock transfers occurred without required Board approval. In 2001, the Board voted to revoke Emerald’s license. Its 15-month investigation was apparently based on a belief that Emerald had associated with organized crime but the denial notice focused on inadequate disclosures. The Board listed five counts but did not list who was responsible for which violation. Illinois courts affirmed the revocation but held that the Board had not proven an association with organized crime. Emerald was forced into bankruptcy. The trustee sued the defendants, asserting breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The district court dismissed the breach‐of‐fiduciary‐duty claim as time-barred. The Shareholder’s Agreement required that shareholders comply with IGB rules; the court held that each defendant had violated at least one rule, calculated damages by valuing Emerald’s license, and held all but one defendant severally liable for the loss. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the defendants should be held jointly and severally liable, but otherwise affirmed. View "Estate of Pedersen v. Gecker" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased Illinois nursing homes and obtained new state licenses and federal Medicare provider numbers. Most of the residents in the 10 homes qualify for Medicaid assistance. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IDHFS) administers Medicaid funds under 42 U.S.C. 1396-1396w-5, reimbursing nursing homes for Medicaid-eligible expenses on a per diem basis. The rate must be calculated annually based on the facility's costs. When ownership of a home changes, state law requires IDHFS to calculate a new rate based on the new owner’s report of costs during at least the first six months of operation. The Medicaid Act requires states to use a public process, with notice and an opportunity to comment, in determining payment rates. The owners allege that IDHFS failed to: recalculate their reimbursement rates; provide an adequate notice-and-comment process; and comply with the state plan, costing them $12 million in unreimbursed costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of a motion to dismiss. Section 1396a(a)(13)(A) confers a right that is presumably enforceable under 42 U.S.C. 1983; it benefits the owners and is not so amorphous that its enforcement would strain judicial competence. While the Eleventh Amendment may bar some of the requested relief, if it appears that owners have been underpaid, that does not deprive the court of jurisdiction over the case as a whole. View "BT Bourbonnais Care, LLC v. Norwood" on Justia Law

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South Bend’s Police Department records some of the desk phones supplied to officers. Bishop’s phone was added to those being recorded, at his request. In 2010, Richmond took Bishop’s former office. Richmond kept his phone number, so the Line was switched to a vacant office. Young then moved to that office, not knowing that the phone was recorded. In 2011 the recording system crashed. While listening to recordings to make sure that restoration had been done correctly, DaPaepe heard Young say things that she thought inappropriate. DaPaepe gave Chief Boykins tapes of calls. Boykins used the information to make threats. Federal and state investigations ended without charges. Boykins was demoted. The City’s Common Council demanded the tapes, issued a subpoena to the city’s executives, and sought state court enforcement. The city, believing that releasing the tapes would violate wiretap statutes, 18 U.S.C. 2510–22, sought a declaratory judgment. The district court ruled that it had subject-matter jurisdiction although the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. 2201, normally cannot be used to present a federal defense to state litigation. Before the Common Council moved to dismiss, five individual defendants in the city’s suit had become plaintiffs, seeking damages based on federal statutes. The Seventh Circuit vacated the district court's holding without addressing the merits, noting that the suit began as a claim by the city's executive branch against the legislative branch, that the damages issues have settled, and that the issue of the Council’s access to the tapes is in state court. View "City of South Bend v. South Bend Common Council" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Lanigan injured his back at his job and hurt his neck in a car accident; in 2011 he was diagnosed with diabetes. Since then his medical impairments have been complicated by mental illness. Lanigan applied for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits in 2012 when he was 38 years old. At a hearing, the ALJ asked a vocational expert to assess whether competitive employment would be available to a person: capable of performing low-stress jobs constituting light work if those jobs involve only routine tasks; do not require more than occasional interaction with coworkers or the public; do not involve piece work or a rapid assembly line; is limited to occasional stooping, crouching, kneeling, or crawling; and can be off task up to 10% of the workday in addition to regularly scheduled breaks. The ALJ did not explain the source of the 10% figure. The ALJ found his impairments to be severe but not disabling and denied benefits. The Appeals Council denied review. The district court upheld the ALJ’s decision. The Seventh Circuit remanded for further proceedings because the ALJ misinformed a vocational expert about Lanigan’s residual functional capacity, thus undermining the expert’s testimony that Lanigan could engage in competitive employment. View "Lanigan v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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By 2009 Vanprooyen’s physician had prescribed Xanax to treat her panic attacks. She was treated for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. She had a history of addiction. In 2010, Vanprooyen, then age 26, fell down a flight of stairs and suffered a brain hemorrhage. She claimed post-traumatic stress disorder, short-term memory loss, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, seizures, and fibromyalgia. She was prescribed medication for pain, migraine headaches, and seizures. Vanprooyen applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. An administrative law judge found her impairments to be severe but not disabling and denied benefits. The district court upheld the ALJ’s decision. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding “serious deficiencies” in the ALJ’s analysis, which failed to mention that a state consultative examiner who had given Vanprooyen a mental-status examination concluded that she was unable to manage her own money because of her “emotional adjustment and medical difficulties,” although at least two of the three jobs that the ALJ found that Vanprooyen could do involve handling money. Without explanation, the ALJ gave substantial weight to the opinions of consulting physicians who had never examined Vanprooyen. An ALJ can reject an examining physician’s opinion only for reasons supported by substantial evidence; a contradictory opinion of a non-examining physician does not, alonef, suffice. View "Vanprooyen v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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National manufactures battery packs, including the lithium battery packs at issue (Batteries), which were regulated as hazardous materials. A Federal Aviation Administration agent inspected National’s Chicago facility and discovered that National made 11 air shipments of the Batteries to customers in California and Canada that did not comply with multiple hazardous material regulations (HMRs). The FAA filed a complaint. National’s vice president testified that he believed, without supporting evidence, the Batteries were exempt from testing because they were similar to previously tested batteries. The shipping papers indicated that each shipments conformed tp the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods. National’s office manager, certified each shipment, but her hazardous materials training was Department of Transportation specific and did not include training on the ICAO Technical Instructions. Because the Batteries were untested lithium batteries, they should have been packed according to the more stringent standards. An ALJ found that National knowingly violated the HMRs. The FAA assessed a civil penalty of $66,000 based on 49 U.S.C. 5123(c). The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. A reasonable person in National’s position would have been aware of its violations; the penalty was within statutory limits, and rationally related to National’s multiple offenses View "National Power Corp. v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law

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Baker, sued (Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(B)) to obtain records connected to an FBI investigation into a protection racket run by Chicago police officers. The FBI gave him redacted records. He sought disclosure of the names of FBI agents involved in the investigation, Chicago police officers who assisted them, and officers who were investigated but not charged. He argued that the light sentences relative to the magnitude of the criminal activity reflected inadequate investigation. The FBI invoked FOIA exemptions for “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” and for records and other information compiled for law enforcement purposes if their disclosure “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The FBI’s concern was that public identification could endanger individuals by identifying them to gangsters still involved in the racket and would unfairly stigmatize officers. The Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the FBI, noting that it is purely an investigatory agency and does not make charging decisions sentencing suggestions. Baker’s theory that release of the names would enable the public to determine whether the Bureau had adequately staffed the investigation was farfetched. View "Baker v. Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Justia Law