Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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DeCamp, age 55, has a history of depression, drug overdoses, and suicidal thoughts. She overdosed on medication three times in October 2007. She attempted suicide and was cutting her legs. She also has a history of alcohol abuse. In 2010 DeCamp complained of headaches, and an MRI revealed a tumor in her pineal gland, which secretes hormones that regulate sleep cycles. A neurosurgeon noted that the mass was benign. The district court affirmed the denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The ALJ had made an adverse credibility determination and found that DeCamp would be off-task up to 10 percent of the workday. The Seventh Circuit remanded, finding that the ALJ failed to properly evaluation DeCamp’s limits with concentration, persistence, or pace. The ALJ focused her analysis on the doctors’ bottom-line conclusion that DeCamp was not precluded from working without giving the vocational expert any basis to evaluate all DeCamp’s impairments, including those in concentration, persistence, and pace. View "DeCamp v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Mittelstadt’s Richland County, Wisconsin land was enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), from 1987-2006. CRP participants agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production in return for annual rental payments from the USDA. In 2006, the agency denied Mittelstadt’s application to re-enroll. After exhausting his administrative appeals, he sued under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 701, and asserting a breach of contract. The district court entered judgment in favor of the agency. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Under the regulations governing the CRP, the USDA has broad discretion to evaluate offers of enrollment in the program on a competitive basis by considering the environmental benefits of a producer’s land relative to its costs. Given the agency’s wide latitude, the Farm Services Agency did not abuse its discretion when it denied re-enrollment of Mittelstadt’s land under a new definition of “mixed hardwoods.” Because he never entered a new contract with the agency, there was no breach of contract. View "Mittelstadt v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit previously concluded that people whose property is taken into custody by Illinois under its Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act, 765 ILCS 1026/15-607, are entitled to receive the time value of their property (interest or other earnings), less reasonable custodial fees. On remand the district court declined to certify a proposed class, ruling that owners are entitled to compensation for the time value of money only if the property was earning interest when the state took it into custody, which meant that the class had internal divisions that made certification inappropriate. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The Supreme Court has held that the Takings Clause protects the time value of money as much as it does money itself. What the property earns in the state’s hands does not depend on what it had been earning in the owner’s hands; cash has time value even if not invested. The Takings Clause does not set up a situation in which someone who wanted to be “in cash” bears the risk of loss as market conditions change without any prospect of offsetting gain. On remand, Illinois can argue that it does not owe interest on small amounts, such as the $100 at issue, because of administrative costs. View "Goldberg v. Frerichs" on Justia Law

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An April 2016 Chicago Police Accountability Task Force report indicated that the Chicago Police Department’s “response to violence is not sufficiently imbued with Constitutional policing tactics.” In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report concluding that the Chicago Police Department exhibits a pattern or practice of the unconstitutional use of force. In August 2017, the state sued the city, alleging that the Chicago Police Department’s use-of-force policies and practices violate the federal constitution and Illinois law. Two days later, the parties moved to stay the proceedings while they negotiated a consent decree. Almost immediately, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7, publicly opposed any consent decree, citing fears that the decree might impair its collective bargaining rights. For months, the Lodge monitored the ongoing negotiations and met informally with the state’s representatives. The Lodge nonetheless waited until June 2018, to file a motion to intervene in the suit. The district court denied the motion to intervene as untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Lodge knew from the beginning that a consent decree might impact its interests but delayed its motion for nearly a year; its allegations of prejudice are speculative. View "Illinois v. Chicago" on Justia Law

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Ronkowski own 120 acres of undeveloped land in Bayfield County, Wisconsin. Since acquiring the property in 1972, Ronkowski has accessed it via an unpaved road that crosses over neighboring land, including land owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Ronkowski brought suit under the Quiet Title Act seeking recognition of an easement to access their property by way of the unpaved road. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Ronkowski had not established entitlement to an easement. Ronkowski did not make the required showing for an easement by necessity or an easement by implication because the existing forest service road provided them an alternate route by which to reach their property. Ronkowski could not demonstrate that the easement was necessary to access the property; even if traveling by way of forest road would be “inconvenient, difficult or require a high clearance vehicle,” there was no evidence that it is impossible. View "Ronkowski v. United States" on Justia Law

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McHenry, a 49-year-old former hair stylist who suffers from several physical and mental disabilities, challenged the denial of her application for Social Security disability benefits. The ALJ had concluded that, although McHenry suffers from degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia, she lacked sufficient medical evidence that the conditions were disabling, and that she was not credible about her limitations. The district court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The ALJ erred by failing to have a medical expert review a consequential MRI report. The court rejected arguments that the ALJ improperly determined McHenry’s residual functional capacity by not accounting for McHenry’s anxiety-related limits on social functioning and limits in her ability to sustain concentration because of her medications’ side effects and by discounting McHenry’s credibility. View "McHenry v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Bogart, a Democrat, worked as the Financial Resources Director of Vermilion County, Illinois. Marron, a Republican, assumed control of the County Board and fired her. She brought claims under the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause, alleging that Vermilion County and Marron violated her right of political affiliation and engaged in political retaliation. The district court dismissed the equal protection claim as duplicative of the First Amendment claim, and, after finding that the substantial fiscal and budgetary responsibilities of Bogart’s position fit within the exception to political patronage dismissals, granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court has held (the Elrod-Branti exception) that, while public employers cannot condition employment on an individual’s political affiliation, an employee’s First Amendment right of political association leaves room for employers to dismiss employees in positions where political loyalty is a valid job qualification. Determining whether a particular job fits within the exception requires “focus on the inherent powers of the office as presented in the official job description,” while also looking at “how the description was created and when, and how often, it was updated.” Bogart held a senior position requiring the trust and confidence of the elected Board members, including the County Chairman, and entailing substantial policymaking authority. View "Bogart v. Vermilion County" on Justia Law

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Courthouse News Service (CNS) sought injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983, arguing that the First Amendment requires the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, to release newly filed complaints to the press at the moment of receipt by her office—not after processing. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s order granting a preliminary injunction and ordered the action dismissed without prejudice, noting that neither the Seventh Circuit nor the U.S. Supreme Court provides the press with such instant access to court filings, but undertake certain administrative processing before a filing is made publicly available. Adhering to the principles of equity, comity, and federalism, the district court should have abstained from exercising jurisdiction over this case. The court noted that the procedures at issue involve a delay of no more than one business day in access to the vast majority of electronically filed complaints and stated that the state courts deserve the first opportunity to hear such a constitutional challenge to their internal procedures. View "Courthouse News Services v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Hardy, a 55-year old man who worked previously as a maintenance mechanic, had a discectomy in 2005 and a lumbar spinal fusion in 2006. His previous application for Disability Insurance Benefits was denied in 2012. Hardy filed another application for DIB benefits, claiming an onset date of April 2012. The agency denied Hardy’s claim; state-agency doctors reviewed Hardy’s file and determined that he had postural limitations, could frequently lift up to 10 pounds and could stand or walk for six hours during a workday so that Hardy could perform light work. His treating doctors reported that Hardy was unable to work and that his “legs give out and he tends to fall.” In concluding that Hardy was not disabled, an ALJ determined that Hardy had not engaged in substantial gainful employment since his alleged onset date; that his conditions were severe impairments; that these conditions did not equal a listed impairment; that he had the residual functional capacity to perform light work, with limitations; and that he could work as a wire assembler, assembly press operator, circuit board screener, or finish assembler. The Seventh Circuit vacated the denial of benefits. A treating doctor’s opinion generally is entitled to controlling weight if it is consistent with the record, and it cannot be rejected without a “sound explanation.” The ALJ impermissibly discounted the opinions of Hardy’s treating neurosurgeon. View "Hardy v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Lincolnshire's Ordinance 15-3389-116 Section 4 bans union-security agreements within the village by forbidding any requirement that workers join a union, compensate a union financially or make payments to third parties in lieu of such contributions and bars any requirement that employees “be recommended, approved, referred, or cleared for employment by or through a labor organization.” Section 5 prohibits employers from making payments to unions on a worker’s behalf except under a “signed written authorization” that may be revoked by the employee at any time by written notice. The Ordinance provides civil remedies and criminal penalties for its violation. Unions sued, asserting preemption by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The district court entered summary judgment, finding that all of the unions had standing to challenge the membership and fee provisions and the checkoff regulation (section 5), but that only one union could challenge the section 4 prohibition of hiring halls. The Seventh Circuit agreed. The district court also held that all three provisions were preempted and that the unions failed to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Localities may not address the subjects of hiring halls or dues checkoffs. The authority conferred in 29 U.S.C. 14(b)), allowing states to bar compulsory union membership as a condition of employment, does not extend to political subdivisions. View "International Union of Operating Engineers v. Village of Lincolnshire" on Justia Law