Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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An Illinois municipality may join the Municipal League, an unincorporated, nonprofit, nonpolitical association, and may pay annual membership dues and fees; member municipalities may act through the League to provide and disseminate information and research services and do other acts for improving local government, 65 ILCS 5/1-8-1. Lincolnshire is one of more than a thousand dues-paying League members and uses tax revenue to pay the dues from the Village’s General Fund. From 2013-2018, Lincolnshire paid at least $5,051 in voluntary dues and fees to the League. Individual residents and the Unions sued, claiming First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause violations. They claimed that Lincolnshire compelled them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern because the League sent emails promoting a particular political agenda, including the adoption of “right to work” zones. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Lincolnshire itself has the right to speak for itself and a right to associate; it voluntarily joined the League as it is authorized to do. Local governments must be allowed to discuss, either directly or through a surrogate, ideas related to municipal government, regardless of where those ideas originated. View "O'Brien v. Village of Lincolnshire" on Justia Law

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The Center lodged a FOIA request with the Department of Justice (DOJ) for records of communications between the Attorney General, the Office of the Attorney General and any Office of Immigration Litigation or Office of the Solicitor General lawyers related to 11 certified cases decided in 2002-2009. DOJ produced about 1,000 pages but withheld 4,000 pages, citing FOIA Exemption 5, which allows the withholding of agency memoranda not subject to disclosure in the ordinary course of litigation, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(5). Exemption 5 encompasses the attorney work product, attorney-client, and deliberative process privileges. DOJ submitted a Vaughn index describing each document withheld, identifying documents reflecting discussions between attorneys working within different offices of issues related to immigration cases under consideration or on certification for decision by the Attorney General. The Center unsuccessfully argued that the documents contained ex parte communications outside Exemption 5's scope because the DOJ attorneys’ eventual litigation role taints the advice they provide the Attorney General at the certification stage; removal proceedings end in federal court litigation where those same attorneys are opposite the immigrant. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Office of Immigration Litigation and Solicitor General attorneys do not hold interests adverse to the noncitizen at the stage at which the Attorney General certifies a case for decision. “ To conclude otherwise would chill the deliberations that department and agency heads like the Attorney General undertake in confidence to execute the weighty responsibilities of their offices.” View "National Immigrant Justice Center v. United States Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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Until 2010, Reinaas, now in his mid‐fifties, worked as a machine operator. He injured his spine and tore his rotator cuff on the job, and underwent two neck fusion surgeries. Reinaas planned to return to work but continued to suffer from severe headaches (treated with hydrocodone), shoulder pain, and a decreased range of motion. A neurologist diagnosed him with cervicogenic headaches, and his family doctor diagnosed “long term nuchal headaches” and “[p]ermanent pain syndrome post cervical fusion.” Dr. Bodeau, a Mayo Clinic occupational physician, opined that Reinaas could not return to his factory job and suggested surgical intervention. In 2013, Reinaas had shoulder surgery and attended physical therapy; he took naproxen and Vicodin for pain. Reinaas applied for social security disability benefits. Benefits were denied after state‐retained physicians reviewed his records and concluded that Reinaas’s accounts of his symptoms were not fully credible. Dr. Bodeau opined that Reinaas had “deteriorated significantly” and was “highly unlikely to successfully regain employment at any physical demand level.” The ALJ concluded that Reinaas was not disabled. In determining Reinaas’s residual functional capacity, the ALJ afforded great weight to the opinions of the two non‐examining physicians and gave little weight to Dr. Bodeau’s opinion, explaining that Bodeau lacked knowledge of Social Security disability rules and that his report was based on subjective complaints of questionable credibility. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Substantial evidence does not support the ALJ’s decision to discount the treating physician’s opinion and the ALJ did not adequately evaluate Reinaas’s subjective complaints. View "Reinaas v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Bowling worked for the City of Gary, Indiana for 25 years, eventually becoming a network administrator, with access to the email system. Her responsibilities included ordering the city's computer equipment. Bowling ordered 1,517 Apple products, totaling $1,337,114.06. She sold iPads and MacBooks for cash. To conceal her scheme, Bowling submitted duplicate invoices from legitimate purchases. Eventually, the fraudulent purchases outstripped the duplicate invoices she could process and one vendor, CDW, turned the city’s account over to a senior recovery analyst, Krug. Krug contacted Green, the city’s controller and sent Green invoices via FedEx. Bowling intercepted the package, accessed Green’s email account, and sent a fabricated message to Krug to reassure CDW but her scheme unraveled. The Seventh Circuit affirmed her conviction for theft from a local government that received federal funds, 18 U.S.C. 666, and her 63-month sentence. The federal funds element was satisfied; the parties stipulated that Gary as a whole received more than $10,000 in federal benefits in a one-year period. Krug’s testimony about the email was direct evidence of Bowling’s attempt to stall the city’s ultimate discovery of her fraud; there was no error in admitting the testimony under Rule 404(b). A two-level obstruction of justice sentencing enhancement was justified because Bowling faked mutism, causing a one-year delay in the proceedings. View "United States v. Bowling" on Justia Law

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Dolin was prescribed Paxil, the brand-name version of the drug paroxetine, to treat his depression. The prescription was filled with a generic paroxetine product. Six days later, Dolin died by suicide. Federal law preempted an "inadequate labeling" state-law claim against the generic manufacturer. Mrs. Dolin sued GSK, the manufacturer of brand-name Paxil, arguing that GSK was responsible for the labeling for all paroxetine, no matter who made and sold it, and had negligently omitted an adult suicide risk. The Seventh Circuit reversed her jury verdict, based on preemption, citing the complex regulation of drug labels and of Paxil/paroxetine’s label in particular. GSK had attempted to change the Paxil label in 2007 to add an adult suicide warning. The FDA rejected that change. The court concluded that GSK lacked new information after 2007 that would have allowed it to add an adult-suicidality warning under the existing regulations. Eight days after denying Dolin certiorari, the Supreme Court decided another case, further explaining the “clear evidence” standard for impossibility preemption for prescription drug labels. Dolin filed an unsuccessful motion under FRCP 60(b)(6), arguing that the 2018 judgment should be set aside based on a change in law so that GSK could not establish its defense of impossibility preemption. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and did not impose sanctions. The Supreme Court provided important guidance but did not break new ground that would change the result in Dolin’s case. Her motion was not frivolous. View "Dolin v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC" on Justia Law

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Donald and Lauretta Bauer purchased land from Donald’s parents and executed promissory notes and a mortgage. When Donald’s parents died, their interest in the notes transferred to Donald's siblings, who sought foreclosure. A state court entered a foreclosure judgment and a deficiency judgment. No judicial sale occurred. The Bauers tried to redeem the property by satisfying the judgment. The foreclosure plaintiffs issued citations to discover assets and sought additional interest. The state court found that the Bauers owed an additional $33,782.96 in interest. The Bauers paid; the plaintiffs filed a satisfaction of judgment. The Bauers then sued, alleging tampering with evidence and abuse of process by seeking to extort money through the issuance of citations to discover assets. The state appellate court upheld the dismissal of the case. The Bauers filed a federal suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the defendants, including the state-court judge, conspired to introduce a forged document into evidence during the foreclosure trial and that the judge and the clerk allowed the plaintiffs to issue baseless citations to discover assets. The district court dismissed the case under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which precludes federal district-court jurisdiction “over cases brought by state-court losers challenging state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the Bauers’ argument that they did not seek to set aside the state court’s order or judgment but only mean to challenge the “collection practices” of the defendants and their collusion. Any finding in favor of the Bauers would require the federal court to contradict the state court’s orders. View "Bauer v. Koester" on Justia Law

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Elston and his friends were playing basketball at a DuPage County park, heckling one another with salty language. Demeter, an off-duty Kane County sheriff’s deputy, watching his child’s soccer game, demanded that they stop using expletives. Demeter flashed his badge and gun. The boys refused to clean up their language. Demeter grabbed Elston by the neck, threw him to the ground, and climbed on top of him. Bystanders separated the two. Demeter called 911, identifying himself as a police officer in need of assistance. Demeter told Elston’s father that he was a police officer attempting to take Elston into custody for disorderly conduct. Elston was never charged with any offense. Demeter pleaded guilty to violating Aurora’s ordinance against battery. Elston sued Demeter under 42 U.S.C. 1983, winning a default judgment and an award of $110,000. Elston also sued Kane County under Illinois’s Tort Immunity Act. The district court rejected the suit on summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Demeter was acting as a private citizen, not within the scope of his duties as a deputy when he injured Elston. Demeter was not acting substantially within the time and space limits authorized by his employment; that Demeter used his badge, gun, and training in an unauthorized manner in q purely personal pursuit does not bring his conduct within the scope of his employment. View "Elston v. County of Kane" on Justia Law

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Baez-Sanchez, a citizen of Mexico, is removable. His conviction for aggravated ba]ery of a police officer renders him inadmissible, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). He applied for a U visa, which is available to some admissible aliens who have been victims of crime in this country. An IJ granted a waiver of inadmissibility, 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(3)(A)(ii). The BIA remanded with instructions to consider an additional issue. The IJ did so and reaffirmed. The BIA then concluded that the power to waive inadmissibility belongs to the Attorney General alone and may not be exercised by immigration judges. The Seventh Circuit held that 8 C.F.R. 1003.10(a) permits IJs to exercise all of the Attorney General’s powers, except those expressly reserved by some other regulation. The BIA concluded that the court's decision was incorrect and did not consider the issues remanded by the court. Baez-Sanchez filed another petition for review. The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating that it had “never before encountered defiance of a remand order.” Article III judicial power is not subject to disapproval or revision by another branch of government. The Attorney General, the Secretary, and the BIA are free to maintain, in another case, that the decision was mistaken but they are not free to disregard a mandate in the very case making the decision. An immigration judge has ruled in favor of Baez-Sanchez; all issues have been resolved. Baez-Sanchez may seek a U visa. View "Baez-Sanchez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Under Ind. Code 31-14-7-1(1), a husband is presumed to be a child’s biological father; both spouses are listed as parents on the birth certificate and the child is deemed to be born in wedlock. There is no similar presumption with respect to a same-sex couple. The district court issued an injunction requiring Indiana to treat children born into female-female marriages as having two female parents, who must be listed on the birth certificate. Because Indiana lists only two parents on a birth certificate, this prevents the state from treating as a parent the man who provided the sperm but requires that one spouse, who provided neither sperm nor egg, be identified as a parent. The court reasoned that Indiana lists a husband as a biological parent (when a child is born during marriage) even if he did not provide sperm, and must treat a wife as a parent even if she did not provide an egg. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing the Supreme Court’s 2017 holding, Pavan v. Smith, that same-sex and opposite-sex couples must have the same rights with respect to the identification of children’s parentage on birth certificates. Indiana’s statutory presumption violates the Constitution. The court rejected the state’s arguments that the statutory presumption is rebuttable. View "Henderson v. Box" on Justia Law

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Prater was denied Social Security Disability Insurance benefits when she was 47-years-old and weighed about 400 pounds at 64 inches tall. X-rays showed mild-to-moderate degenerative joint disease in her feet and knees and degenerative disc disease in her spine. She was diabetic and had a history of gout. Prater stated that at her last job she experienced pain and fatigue “all the time.” None of her treating physicians indicated that she must alternate between sitting and standing. A vocational expert testified that a hypothetical individual with Prater's vocational background, education, and age, limited to sedentary work with restrictions on lifting, carrying, climbing, driving, and more, who could stand and walk no more than two hours of an eight-hour day and would need to change positions during the day but could remain in place for at least 30 minutes, whether sitting or standing, could not do any of Prater’s past jobs but could perform other jobs available in the national economy. The ALJ concluded that Prater was not disabled, finding that she had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work with numerous restrictions; that her statements about the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were “not entirely consistent” with the evidence; and that, although Prater was morbidly obese, “her physical examination was otherwise unremarkable.” The Appeals Council, the district court, and the Seventh Circuit upheld the decision. The sit/stand limitation in the RFC assessment is not too vague. The ALJ’s finding that she could sit and stand for 30 minutes at a time does not lack medical support; the ALJ did not improperly discredit her testimony that she could remain in position for only 20 minutes. View "Prater v. Saul" on Justia Law