by
1997 Wisconsin Act 292, designed to address the effects of prenatal substance abuse, brings unborn children and their mothers within the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts if the mothers exhibit a habitual lack of self‐control with respect to alcohol or drugs that raises a substantial health risk for their unborn children. Loertscher sought treatment at a county health facility. Her caregivers determined that she was pregnant and that she had tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamines, and tetrahydrocannabinol. The court ordered Loertscher to report to an alcohol and drug abuse treatment center for assessment and possible treatment. When she failed to comply, the court found her in contempt and placed her in county detention. She eventually agreed to participate in the program. Loertscher filed suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983 challenging the constitutionality of Act 292, then moved out of Wisconsin. The district court denied a motion to dismiss, concluded that Act 292 was void for vagueness and granted injunctive relief against the state defendants but determined that the county defendants were not personally liable. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Loertscher’s case is moot. She has moved out of Wisconsin and has no plans to return. It is not reasonably likely that she will again be subject to the Act. View "Loertscher v. Anderson" on Justia Law

by
Arla, a Denmark-based global dairy conglomerate, launched a $30 million advertising campaign aimed at expanding its U.S. cheese sales, branded “Live Unprocessed.” The ads assure consumers that Arla cheese contains no “weird stuff” or “ingredients that you can’t pronounce,” particularly, no milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine somatotropin (“rbST”), an artificial growth hormone. The flagship ad implies that milk from rbST-treated cows is unwholesome. Narrated by a seven-year-old girl, the ad depicts rbST as a cartoon monster with razor-sharp horns. Elanco makes the only FDA-approved rbST supplement. Elanco sued, alleging that the ads contain false and misleading statements in violation of the Lanham Act. Elanco provided scientific literature documenting rbST’s safety, and evidence that a major cheese producer had decreased its demand for rbST in response to the ads. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the issuance of a preliminary injunction, rejecting arguments that Elanco failed to produce consumer surveys or other reliable evidence of actual consumer confusion and did not submit adequate evidence linking the ad campaign to decreased demand for its rbST. Consumer surveys or other “hard” evidence of actual consumer confusion are unnecessary at the preliminary-injunction stage. The evidence of causation is sufficient at this stage: the harm is easily traced because Elanco manufactures the only FDA-approved rbST. The injunction is sufficiently definite and adequately supported by the record and the judge’s findings. View "Eli Lilly and Co. v. Arla Foods USA, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Flanagan sued under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 20003, alleging that two coworkers threatened her life because she previously successfully sued their shared employer, the Cook County Adult Probation Department, for discrimination and retaliation. Flanagan claims that her colleague overheard human-resources director Vaughan, tell deputy chief, Loizon, “to figure out a way to get [Flanagan] alone and away from her partner.” On March 13, 2008, Loizon radioed for Flanagan to join him and another supervisor at an Adult Probation facility to question a probationer regarding a potential tip. After the questioning, Loizon and the probationer left through the back door. The other supervisor then locked the front door and escorted Flanagan toward the back. While near the back door, Flanagan overheard Loizon say, “Do it to her when she gets out the door.” Nothing further happened. After Flanagan filed another EEOC charge, Loizon approached her in the office parking lot, exchanged words with her, and warned, "I could hit you and nobody would give a fuck.” The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the threat to Flanagan was too oblique for a jury to conclude that she was subjected to severe or pervasive harassment. View "Flanagan v. Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County" on Justia Law

by
Weaver was arrested for the murder of Sanders. The court disqualified Weaver’s attorney because he represented a potential state witness. Callico testified that he and Sanders sold drugs together and that on April 4, 2002, Weaver fired the fatal shots into Sanders’s car. Over Weaver's objection, Officer Pinal testified that on September 9, 2002, Pinal and another officer saw Weaver place a gun in his waistband and approached Weaver, identifying themselves as police. Weaver drew the gun and fled, eventually tossing the gun. A firearms expert testified that shots fired from the pistol Pinal recovered matched casings and bullets recovered from the Sanders scene. Callico admitted that he had an extensive criminal background and had initially stated that he did not know the shooter. Pinal acknowledged that he never had the gun or magazine tested for fingerprints and that, during the chase, he lost sight of Weaver for 30 seconds. Weaver’s counsel emphasized the time gap between Sanders’s murder and the recovery of the pistol and that Callico’s unreliable testimony was the only direct evidence. Weaver was convicted of first-degree murder. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of his petition for habeas relief, rejecting arguments that the trial court denied him the right to his counsel of choice; his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call several witnesses and properly cross‐examine Callico; the state violated his due process rights by using Callico’s coerced and perjured testimony; and the trial court violated his due process rights by admitting evidence of other crimes related to the September 2002 incident. View "Weaver v. Nicholson" on Justia Law

by
Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, “Class III” medical devices are those that support or sustain human life, that are of substantial importance in preventing impairment of human health, or that present a potential, unreasonable risk of illness or injury, 21 U.S.C. 360c(a)(1)(A), and must undergo scientific and regulatory review before they are marketed. Henson, a diabetic, sent the Food and Drug Administration requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, seeking documents related to the premarket approval process for a glucose monitoring system, claiming to have observed deficiencies with his monitor. The agency produced documents. Henson was not satisfied with the response, so he sued. The agency reprocessed Henson’s requests and provided him with responsive documents totaling 8,000 pages plus a “Vaughn index,”listing each redacted or withheld document cross-referenced with the FOIA exemption that the FDA asserted was applicable. The FDA explained that it did not respond to all of Henson’s requests because the requested materials were either outside of the Act’s scope, duplicative of Henson’s other requests, or available on the agency’s website. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of Henson’s suit on summary judgment. The agency’s search for responsive documents and the application of exemptions were reasonable. View "Henson v. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

by
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that full-time staff members who also teach part-time (50-75 individuals, “FTST”) were included in the Part-Time Faculty Association at Columbia College Chicago (PFAC) bargaining unit for the purposes of their part-time faculty duties. Under the collective bargaining agreement’s recognition clause FTST are part-time faculty members and arguably fall under the scope of the general inclusion but also qualify as full-time staff members, which are expressly excluded from representation. An arbitrator vacated the ruling. The Seventh Circuit upheld the NLRB decision. Given the primacy of the NLRB’s determination, the countervailing arbitration decision cannot stand. The National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 159, “confers broad discretion on the Board to determine appropriate bargaining units,” because “the bargaining unit determination is a representational question reserved in the first instance to the Board.” View "Part-time Faculty Association v. Columbia College Chicago" on Justia Law

by
Jones, a Calumet City alderman, wants to be mayor. His supporter, Grant, tried to prevent the incumbent, Qualkinbush, from running for reelection in 2017 by circulating a referendum to set a three-term limit on the mayor. Grant gathered enough signatures but the city proposed three referenda for that election, which were certified before Grant’s. Illinois law limits to three the number of referenda on any ballot. One of the city’s proposals passed: it prevents the election as mayor of anyone who has served four or more consecutive terms as either mayor or alderman, barring Jones. Jones was removed from the ballot. Qualkinbush was reelected. Jones lost a state suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of Jones’s challenges. The Rule of Three allows a city observing a signature-gathering campaign in progress to get its own proposals on the ballot first but a ballot is not a public forum. Nothing in the Constitution guarantees direct democracy. The Rule does not distinguish by content and is rationally related to a legitimate state objective in simplifying the ballot to promote a well-considered outcome. Rejecting Jones’s claim that this referendum was aimed at him and treated him as a prohibited class of one, the court noted that three aldermen were affected and the referendum prevents Qualkinbush from running for reelection in 2021. “Politics is a rough-and-tumble game,” and the right response is political. View "Jones v. Qualkinbush" on Justia Law

by
In 2001, McMahan and his wholly owned corporation participated in a tax shelter called “Son of BOSS” that “is a variation of a slightly older alleged tax shelter,” BOSS, an acronym for ‘bond and options sales strategy.’” BOSS “was aggressively marketed by law and accounting firms in the late 1990s and early 2000s” and involves engaging in a series of transactions to create an “artificial loss [that] may offset actual—and otherwise taxable— gains, thereby sheltering them from Uncle Sam.” The Internal Revenue Service considers the use of this shelter abusive and initiated an audit of McMahan’s 2001 tax return in 2005. In 2010, the IRS notified McMahan it was increasing his taxable income for 2001 by approximately $2 million. In 2012, McMahan filed suit against his accountant, American Express, which prepared his tax return, and Deutsche Bank, which facilitated the transactions necessary to implement the shelter. McMahan claimed these defendants harmed him by convincing him to participate in the shelter. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of all the claims by dismissal or summary judgment. McMahan’s failure to prosecute prejudiced the accountant and Amex defendants and the Deutsch Bank claim was untimely. View "McMahan v. Deutsche Bank AG" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Tax Law

by
Linda worked for Children’s Hospital for 37 years, covered by its employer-funded Pension Plan. In 2015, Linda faced recurring cancer, and, at age 60, retired. The Plan describes a normal retirement pension, an early retirement pension, a deferred vested retirement pension, and a pre-retirement surviving-spouse death benefit. The surviving spouse benefit is available to a participant’s spouse when the participant dies “before the Participant’s annuity starting date.” No other benefit provides that it is available to beneficiaries if the participant dies before payments start. Early retirement pensions “commence with a payment due on the first day of the month next following” the date of termination and the election of benefits. A 10-year annuity is available and allows the participant to designate a beneficiary for the remainder of a 10-year period, but if the participant dies before distributions begin, the designated beneficiary will be a surviving spouse. Linda chose the early retirement pension, through a 10-year annuity. She designated her daughter, Kishunda, as her beneficiary. Linda retired on August 26. Her first pension payment was set to commence on September 1. She died on August 29. Kishunda was denied her mother’s pension and sued under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B). The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment, upholding the administrator’s interpretation of the Plan as not arbitrary; only spouses are entitled to benefits under the Plan when a participant dies before the start of her pension. View "Estate of Jones v. Children's Hospital and Health System, Inc. Pension Plan" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA

by
In 2010, Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust filed a purported class action in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that in 1944 the Hungarian national railway transported Fischer and up to 500,000 other Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs had neither exhausted remedies that may be available in Hungary nor established that the national railway is engaged in commercial activity in the U.S., as necessary to support the exercise of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) expropriation exception. In 2016, Kellner, a member of the putative class, filed her own complaint against the Hungarian national railway in Budapest’s Capital Regional Court, which dismissed the case. In 2017, the district court received a “Motion to Reinstate” based on “class member” Kellner’s efforts to exhaust remedies in Hungary. The district court rejected the motion: [A]lthough there was a proposed class in this case and Kellner may have been a putative class member, … No class was certified …. Kellner ... is not a named party … and lacks any standing.” The Seventh Circuit held that it lacked authority to consider an appeal from a party not subject to the order sought to be challenged. View "Fischer v. Magyar Allamvasutak Zrt." on Justia Law