Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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The federal government may deny admission or adjustment of status to a noncitizen “likely at any time to become a public charge, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4)(A). For decades, “public charge” was understood to refer to noncitizens “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either (i) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (ii) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security expanded the meaning of “public charge” to disqualify a broader set of noncitizens from benefits. The Rule immediately generated extensive litigation.In 2020, the district court vacated the 2019 Rule under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701. In 2021, the federal government dismissed appeals defending the 2019 Rule in courts around the country. Several states subsequently sought to intervene in the proceedings, hoping to defend the 2019 Rule; they also moved for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b). The district court denied the motions, finding each untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion with respect to timeliness. The court declined to address other issues. View "Cook County, Illinois v. State of Texas" on Justia Law

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While residing in a nursing home, Hill died of COVID-19. Her estate sued in state court under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, The defendant removed the suit to federal court, asserting that Martin’s suit necessarily rests on federal law, 28 U.S.C.1441(a), and that it was “acting under” a federal officer under 28 U.S.C.1442(a)(1).The district judge remanded to state court. The Seventh Circuit affirmed,. The nursing home is subject to extensive federal regulation (especially for Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement), and CDC orders during the pandemic have increased that regulatory burden but regulation does not turn a private entity into a public actor. The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, 42 U.S.C. 247d, forbids liability under state law for injuries caused by use of a “covered countermeasure”, and creates a federal claim for injuries caused by “willful misconduct” in connection with covered countermeasures (payable from a federal fund), but does not preempt any other kind of claim nor occupy the field of health safety. The estate’s claims are not even arguably preempted. The principal disputes in this suit are likely to be whether the nursing home allowed members of the staff to work while ill or failed to isolate residents who contracted COVID-19, which are unrelated to federal law. View "Martin v. Petersen Health Operations, LLC" on Justia Law

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker issued a series of executive orders that first required Illinois residents to shelter in place at their residences, compelled “non-essential” businesses temporarily to cease or reduce their operations and prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people (later increased to 50 people). Believing that these orders violated numerous provisions of the U.S. Constitution, several individuals joined with some Illinois businesses and sued the Governor in his official capacity. After granting the plaintiffs one opportunity to amend their complaint, the district court found that they lacked standing to sue. The court also concluded that it would be futile to allow a second amendment because, even if it had erred about the existence of a justiciable case or controversy, the plaintiffs could not state a claim upon which relief could be granted.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. With respect to five out of six counts, the plaintiffs have not satisfied the criteria for Article III standing to sue. The remaining count attempts to state a claim under the Takings Clause. The business plaintiffs “may have squeaked by the standing bar” for that theory but have not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. View "Nowlin v. Pritzker" on Justia Law

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When the Indiana Department of Child Services identifies a situation that involves the apparent neglect or abuse of a child, it files a “CHINS” (Children in Need of Services) petition that may request the child’s placement with foster parents. The litigation ends only when the court determines that the child’s parents can resume unsupervised custody, the child is adopted, or the child turns 18. Minors who are or were subject to CHINS proceedings sought an injunction covering how the Department investigates child welfare before CHINS proceedings, when it may or must initiate CHINS proceedings, and what relief the Department may or must pursue. The district court denied a request to abstain and declined to dismiss the suit.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Only two plaintiffs still have live claims; all of their claims may be resolved in CHINS proceedings, so “Younger” abstention applies. Short of ordering the state to produce more money, "it is hard to see what options are open to a federal court but closed to a CHINS court." It is improper for a federal court to issue an injunction requiring a state official to comply with existing state law. Questions that lie outside the scope of CHINS proceedings, such as how the Department handles investigations before filing a CHINS petition, do not affect the status of the remaining plaintiffs. Any contentions that rest on state law also are outside the province of the federal court. View "Ashley W. v. Holcomb" on Justia Law

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The diversity-visa program makes as many as 55,000 visas available annually to citizens of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, 8 U.S.C. 1151(e), 1153(c); the State Department holds a lottery to determine priority. Applicants who qualify, through random selection, for a diversity visa “shall remain eligible to receive such visa only through the end of the specific fiscal year for which they were selected.” The fiscal-year limit has caused many applications to fail; bureaucratic inertia or foul-ups have the same effect as affirmative decisions that applicants are ineligible. The Seventh Circuit held in 2002 held that the fiscal-year limit cannot be extended by judicial order.In March 2020, the State Department stopped processing routine visa applications, including diversity visas. High-priority applications, such as for diplomats, medical emergencies, and medical personnel, continued to be approved. Two presidential orders confirmed the Department’s approach. Fiscal Year 2020 expired.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit by applicants whose eligibility had expired. Section 1154(a)(1)(I)(ii)(II) applies regardless of the relief sought; it does not set a time limit for administrative action nor impose any duty on the State Department. It only specifies the consequence of delay: the applicant’s eligibility expires. A court is not authorized to substitute a different consequence. There is no statute authorizing monetary relief for the plaintiffs’ outlays that did not lead to visas. View "Shahi v. United States Department of State" on Justia Law

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Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund is a state-created insolvency insurer; when a member insurer becomes insolvent, the Fund pays covered claims. In cases involving insolvent health insurance, many claims are for patients who are eligible for both Medicare benefits and private health insurance. The Fund sought a determination that it is not subject to reporting requirements under section 111 of the 2007 Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act, 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(7) & (b)(8), which is intended to cut Medicare spending by placing financial responsibility for medical costs with available primary plans first. Because time may be of the essence in medical treatment, the government may make conditionally cover medical expenses for Medicare beneficiaries insured by a primary plan, subject to later reimbursement from a primary plan. Section 111 imposes reporting requirements so that the government can identify the primary plan responsible for payment. The Fund believes that it is not an “applicable plan.”The district court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, reasoning the government had not made a final decision through its administrative processes. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Fund can obtain judicial review of its claim in a federal court only by channeling its appeal through the administrative process provided under 42 U.S.C. 405(g). The usually-waivable defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies is a jurisdictional bar here. View "Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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Outstanding debt for Chicago traffic tickets surpassed $1.8 billion last year. Under a 2016 Chicago ordinance, when a driver incurs the needed number of outstanding tickets and final liability determinations, Chicago is authorized to impound her vehicle and to attach a possessory lien. Many drivers cannot afford to pay their outstanding tickets and fees, let alone the liens imposed on their cars through this process. Mance incurred several unpaid parking tickets; her car was impounded and subject to a possessory lien of $12,245, more than four times her car’s value. With a monthly income of $197 in food stamps, Mance filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and sought to avoid the lien under 11 U.S.C 522(f). When a vehicle owner files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, she can avoid a lien under 522(f) if the lien qualifies as judicial and its value exceeds the value of her exempt property (the car). If the lien is statutory, it is not avoidable under the same provision.The bankruptcy and district courts and the Seventh Circuit concluded that the lien was judicial and avoidable. The lien was tied inextricably to the prior adjudications of Mance’s parking and other infractions, so it did not arise solely by statute, as the Bankruptcy Code requires for a statutory lien. View "City of Chicago v. Mance" on Justia Law

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Indiana legislators, lobbyists, and legislative staff enjoy a party on the day the legislature adjourns for the year. The March 2018 celebration was held at AJ’s Lounge in Indianapolis. Hill, the state’s Attorney General, appeared at the party and made passes at several women, moving from verbal to physical harassment, including groping. A special prosecutor concluded that criminal charges were inappropriate. The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Hill’s law license for 30 days, a punishment mitigated by his long, previously unblemished record. His bid for renomination failed. His term as Attorney General ended in January 2021.Women legislative employees filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, other statutes, and Indiana’s common law. The district judge dismissed all claims against Hill without prejudice to their renewal in state court and dismissed all claims against Indiana, ruling that it is not the plaintiffs’ employer. Claims against the House and Senate remain pending in the district court. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissals. Indiana cannot be treated as the plaintiffs’ “employer” under 42 U.S.C. 2000e(b), e–2(a). They were hired, and are supervised, by the House or Senate, which holds the sole power to discipline, fire, or reward them. The statute requires people to sue their own employers, so it is irrelevant whether the state employs the Attorney General. View "DaSilva v. State of Indiana" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Grotts applied for Social Security disability benefits, citing depression and low functional capacity. She had previously worked as a caretaker for a child with disabilities and he cared for her own child. Her case was remanded four times. Five times, an ALJ concluded that Grotts was not disabled. The final ALJ found that she could still perform light work with some restrictions and because a significant number of jobs fitting that description existed in the national economy.The district court agreed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the ALJ erred in its evaluation of Grotts’s subjective complaints about her symptoms, in its evaluation of the medical opinion evidence, and in its residual functional capacity determination. Substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s weighing of the medical opinion evidence and its RFC determination. The ALJ did not patently err in its evaluation of Grotts’s subjective complaints. View "Grotts v. Kijakazi" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Talignani, a U.S. military veteran, consulted a VA neurosurgeon, who recommended that he undergo neck surgery. Because the VA could not perform a timely surgery, the surgeon suggested Talignani obtain evaluation and treatment at Saint Louis University Hospital. Talignani agreed and expressed a preference for the Hospital because he had previously undergone surgery there. A nurse obtained the VA’s approval to secure treatment for Talignani at a non-VA provider. The VA agreed to pay for “evaluation and treatment rendered pursuant to the non-VA provider’s plan of care.” The VA then sent a request for outpatient services to the Hospital. The Hospital agreed to treat Talignani and asked the VA to conduct several pre-operative tests. In January 2016, Dr. Mercier performed neck surgery on Talignani using the Hospital’s facility and staff. Talignani died shortly after being released.Talignani’s estate alleged he was prescribed excessive pain medication prior to his discharge, which proximately caused his death. An administrative complaint with the VA was denied. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of a suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b). The Act waives sovereign immunity for certain torts committed by “employee[s] of the Government.” The estate’s claim does not involve a government employee. View "Talignani v. United States" on Justia Law