Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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In 2007, Chavez, then 21, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent five surgeries. Chavez experienced depression and anxiety. She struggled to maintain concentration to complete simple household tasks and suffered from migraine headaches, back pain (caused by degenerative disc disease), and numbness in her feet and hands. Chavez had no prior work experience. In 2010 Chavez applied for Social Security supplemental security income. Chavez could perform only simple, routine tasks with significant restrictions on how much she could lift. The vocational expert enlisted by the agency to estimate the number of jobs suitable for Chavez testified that for one particular job there were either 800 or 108,000 existing positions but preferred the larger estimate. The administrative law judge agreed and denied Chavez’s claim. The district court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The decision was not supported by substantial evidence; the ALJ failed to ensure that the vocational expert’s job estimates were reliable. The vocational expert offered no explanation for why his estimates (or his method) were reliable, instead reaching a conclusion by determining that the estimates yielded by an alternative method seemed too low. By affording such broad deference to the vocational expert’s chosen estimates, the ALJ relieved the agency of its evidentiary burden at the final step of the analysis, impermissibly shifting the burden to Chavez. View "Chavez v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Kaminski fell down a flight of stairs, suffering a head wound that caused a traumatic brain injury and a seizure disorder. He applied under the Social Security Act for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income 13 years later. The Social Security Administration denied his applications; the district court upheld the denial. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the administrative law judge improperly rejected his treating physician’s opinions. The treating physician’s opinions and the testimony of the vocational expert together show that Kaminski is disabled. View "Kaminski v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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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

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Ramos, filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding her severance agreement's broad release of claims and covenant not to sue, with exceptions for “rights that Employee cannot lawfully waive” and for participation “in a proceeding with any appropriate federal, state or local government agency enforcing discrimination laws.” The EEOC abandoned Ramos’s charge by issuing her a right-to-sue letter and, eight months later, filed suit under section 707(a), which it believed granted independent litigation authority for suits against “any person or group of persons … engaged in a pattern or practice ....” 42 U.S.C. 2000e-6(a). While section 707(e)’s incorporation of section 706’s procedural requirements generally requires the EEOC to follow the same pre-suit procedures whether the suit is an individual one or a pattern-or-practice action, the EEOC believed that a distinction between section 707’s subsections excused it from doing so. Section 707(a), unlike section 707(e), gives the EEOC a right to litigate without an underlying charge or unlawful employment practice, and (EEOC thought) by extension, without first conciliating. The EEOC distinguished between section 707(a)’s reach to “any person or group of persons” and section 707(e)’s limitation to employers. In 2015, the Seventh Circuit held that conciliation is necessary under both sections. The district court subsequently awarded $307,902.30 in attorneys’ fees, finding that EEOC had taken a position contrary to its own regulations. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the Sevdecision impermissibly rested on hindsight. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mayle, an adherent of “non-theistic Satanism,” sued to enjoin the printing of the national motto, “In God We Trust,” on U.S. currency. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his complaint, rejecting claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Free Speech, Free Exercise, and Establishment Clauses. The Supreme Court has observed that the motto “In God We Trust” merely acknowledges a part of our nation’s heritage (albeit a religious part) and does not “pose a real danger of establishment of a state church.” Mayle has not been coerced into participating in Christianity; “no one walking down the street who saw Mayle would have the faintest idea what Mayle had in his pocket—currency or plastic payment cards or perhaps just a smartphone.” The motto’s placement on currency has the secular purpose of recognizing the religious component of our nation’s history and does not affect current religious practices. The motto is generally applicable and no reasonable person would believe that using currency has religious significance. Mayle has not suffered a financial burden because of his religious beliefs, nor has he altered his behavior to avoid violating his religious beliefs. View "Mayle v. United States" on Justia Law

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Schock resigned from Congress in 2015, after disclosures about trips he took at public expense, the expense of his elaborate office furnishings, and how he had applied campaign funds. Schock was charged with mail and wire fraud, theft of government funds, making false statements to Congress and the Federal Elections Commission, and filing false tax returns. Schock moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the charges are inconsistent with the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause and with the House of Representatives’ constitutional authority to determine the rules of its proceedings. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. The indictment arises out of applications for reimbursements, which are not speeches, debates, or any other part of the legislative process. Submitting a claim under established rules differs from the formulation of those rules. The foundation for Schock’s rule-making” argument—the proposition that if Body A has sole power to make a rule, then Body A has sole power to interpret that rule—does not represent established doctrine. “ Judges regularly interpret, apply, and occasionally nullify rules promulgated by the President or another part of the Executive Branch, as well as statutes enacted by the Legislative Branch; why would reimbursement rules be different?” View "United States v. Schock" on Justia Law

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Quinn applied to become an Indianapolis firefighter. He passed the written examination, oral interview, and Certified Physical Agility Test and was placed on a ranked list for hiring consideration. The Department hired two academy classes from that ranked list, but Quinn was not selected. Quinn’s father (Rodney) filed a qui tam suit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h)(1), alleging that the Department had made false statements of material fact to the federal government in order to receive federal grant funds. Rodney was a backup investigator in the Department’s arson unit. Quinn joined his father’s suit, alleging that the Department retaliated against him for his father’s complaint. The district court granted the Department summary judgment on Quinn’s retaliation claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Quinn was ranked, at best, five spots too low to receive an automatic selection and every discretionary pick in both classes had more markers than Quinn, consistent with the Department’s policy for discretionary selections. There is no evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that Rodney’s suit was even a motivating factor in the decision not to hire Quinn. Even assuming that the meaning of “employee” under section 3730(h) is could encompass job applicants, there are no facts from which a jury could conclude that Quinn was retaliated against because of his father’s suit. View "Heath v. Indianapolis Fire Department" on Justia Law

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In “Citadel” the Seventh Circuit held that “the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing [the] case [of certain securities firms] for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.” After that decision, Securities Firms filed a petition before the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seeking damages, claiming the Exchanges improperly imposed fees under Payment for Order Flow programs. The SEC dismissed that petition for lack of jurisdiction. The Exchanges, citing CitadeI, maintained the SEC had jurisdiction under Section 19(h)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act because the petition sought a determination that the Exchanges had violated their own rules. The SEC reasoned that Section 19(d), which authorizes it to review allegations that a national exchange has unduly “prohibit[ed] or limit[ed] … access to services,” 15 U.S.C. 78s(d)(1), did not apply; the petition did not allege that the Exchanges had denied or limited access to any service. The SEC further stated that seeking damages was “incongruous with” the SEC’s Section 19(d) remedial authority and that section 78s(h)(1) does not authorize claims by private parties. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, “the Petition alleges, in effect, a billing dispute” between two private parties, and requests the SEC order the Exchanges to pay damages for improperly charging fees under their PFOF programs. View "Chicago Board Options Exchange v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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During the 2008 financial crisis, Congress created the Federal Housing Finance Agency and authorized it to place into conservatorship the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), 12 U.S.C. 4617(a) and empowered the U.S. Treasury to purchase their “obligations and other securities” through 2009. In exchange for a cash infusion and fixed funding commitment for each enterprise, Treasury received senior preferred shares and extraordinary governance and economic rights, including the right to receive dividends tied to the amount of Treasury’s payments. As Fannie and Freddie’s capital needs grew, Treasury agreed to modify the original agreements. The First and Second Amendments primarily increased Treasury’s funding commitment. The third modification, made after Treasury’s purchasing authority expired, set Treasury’s dividend rights equal to the companies’ outstanding net worth. Plaintiffs, private shareholders of Fannie and Freddie, sued, claiming that the Agency violated its duties by agreeing to the net‐worth dividend and by unlawfully succumbing to the direction of Treasury and that Treasury exceeded its statutory authority and failed to follow proper procedures. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. Section 4617(f) bars “any” judicial interference with the “exercise of powers or functions of the Agency as a conservator.” The purpose of the conservatorship is the “reorganizing, rehabilitation, or winding up” of the companies’ affairs, not just the preservation of assets. Wiping out Treasury’s acceptance of the original agreements or the Third Amendment would undermine the conservatorships. View "Roberts v. Federal Housing Finance Agency" on Justia Law

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The Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program allocates substantial funds annually to provide for the needs of state and local law enforcement, including personnel, equipment, training. In 2017, the Attorney General tied receipt of the funds to the recipient’s compliance with conditions. Chicago, a “sanctuary city,” argued the conditions were unlawful and unconstitutional. The district court agreed and enjoined, nationwide, the enforcement of a condition mandating advance notice to federal authorities of the release date of persons in state or local custody who are believed to be aliens and a condition requiring the local correctional facility to ensure agents access to such facilities to meet with those persons. Compliance with those conditions would require the allocation of state and local resources, including personnel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that it was not assessing “optimal immigration policies” but enforcing the separation of powers doctrine. The statute precisely describes the formula through which funds should be distributed to states and local governments and imposes precise limits on the extent to which the Attorney General can deviate from that distribution. It “is inconceivable that Congress would have anticipated" that the Attorney General could abrogate the distribution scheme and deny funds to states and localities that would qualify under the Byrne JAG statutory provisions, based on a decision to impose conditions—the putative authority for which is provided in another statute (34 U.S.C. 10102(a)(6)). View "City of Chicago v. Sessions" on Justia Law