Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Under Chicago’s 2014 “puppy mill” ordinance, pet retailers in the city “may offer for sale only those dogs, cats, or rabbits” obtained from an animal control or care center, pound, or kennel operated by local, state, or federal government or “a humane society or rescue organization.” Plaintiffs challenged the ordinance as exceeding the city’s home-rule powers and the implied limits on state power imposed by the Commerce Clause. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. The Illinois Constitution permits home-rule units like Chicago to regulate animal control and welfare concurrently with the state. The ordinance does not discriminate against interstate commerce, even in mild practical effect, so it requires no special cost-benefit justification under the Commerce Clause. The court found that the ordinance survives rational-basis review, noting the city’s concerns that large mill-style breeders are notorious for deplorable conditions and abusive breeding practices, including overbreeding, inbreeding, crowded and filthy living conditions, lack of appropriate socialization, and inadequate food, water, and veterinary care, causing pets to develop health and behavioral problems, creating economic and emotional burdens for pet owners and imposing financial costs on the city as owners abandon their pets. View "Park Pet Shop, Inc. v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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In 1998, Dr. Wilson’s terminally ill patient was within hours of death. He was in pain and suffocating. Wilson concluded that the only possible palliation was unconsciousness. As Wilson was injecting a drug, the patient’s heart stopped. The coroner classified the death as murder. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation summarily suspended Wilson’s medical license. The Department held a hearing in 2000. The coroner’s finding of homicide had been withdrawn; Wilson was not charged. His license was nonetheless suspended for five years. He sued in state and federal courts. Rather than staying proceedings, the federal court dismissed. Four times a state judge vacated the suspension. The Department reinstated its decision three times. Without a new hearing or explanation, the Department entered a new five-year suspension in 2007, and another in 2013. In 2014, the state court held that Wilson should not have been suspended for even one day. The Department did not reinstate Wilson’s license because he had not practiced during the last 17 years. In 2014 Wilson sought damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court held that the two-year statute of limitations had been running since 1998. The Seventh Circuit vacated. A federal challenge to a state administrative agency decision is not subject to an exhaustion-of-remedies rule but a claim never accrues until the plaintiff “has a complete and present cause of action”. The court noted the district court’s 1999 holding that Wilson could not litigate in federal court while state proceedings were ongoing; his section 1983 claim for damages did not accrue until 2014. View "Wilson v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation" on Justia Law

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The Republican Party sued the Cook County Board of Election Commissioners, arguing that the Board must include on the ballot a candidate that the Party slated for the House of Representatives in the November 2016 election. The Board had never announced a plan to exclude the candidate. The district court entered an injunction compelling the Board to keep this candidate on the ballot. The Seventh Circuit remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Party’s dispute with two additional defendants, elected as ward committeemen, based on the Party’s refusal to seat them, is not a federal claim. The Party’s “anticipatory federal contention,” that ”if state law does not respect the Party’s eligibility rules, then Illinois violates the First Amendment,” was only a potential response to a potential contention by the committeemen that all elected ward committeemen must be seated on the Party’s central committee. The district judge did not consider the fact that public officials were not contesting the Party’s claims or the possibility that he was issuing an advisory opinion. If the committeemen had sued the Party, demanding membership on its central committee, their claim would have arisen under Illinois law. View "Cook County Republican Party v. Sapone" on Justia Law

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Schloesser worked for 23 years as a dry curer in a meat‐processing factory, regularly lifting more than 70 pounds. After undergoing rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder in 2001 and then a lactimectomy (disc removal in his lower back) in 2002, Schloesser left the factory in 2003. Until 2009, he was self‐employed in construction, until his persistent shoulder and lower back problems prevented him from being able to regularly lift more than 50 pounds as required by his work. In 2012, Schloesser applied for disability insurance benefits under 42 U.S.C. 416(i). The Social Security Administration initially denied his application but an Administrative Law Judge found him disabled and granted benefits in 2014. One month later, sua sponte, the SSA Appeals Council commenced review and reversed the ALJ’s favorable decision. The district court affirmed the Appeals Council’s decision as supported by substantial evidence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding findings that Schloesser did not suffer from severe impairments of cervical radiculopathy, major joint dysfunction, and history of left shoulder surgery and that his residual functional capacity did not include being off‐task up to 10% of the workday or needing unscheduled breaks. View "Schloesser v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Edwards is a naturalized U.S. citizen who emigrated from Mongolia in 1996. She was hired as an officer with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in 2009. Edwards went through a federal background investigation in 2009 and reinvestigation in 2014. Asked whether she “EVER provided financial support for any foreign national,” and whether she “ever helped anyone enter or stay in the U.S. illegally,” Edwards answered no. Both answers were false. She was convicted of two counts of witness tampering, 18 U.S.C. 1512(b)(3) and two counts of making false statements on an official questionnaire for federal employment. 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2). The trial judge, skeptical about the strength of the government’s evidence and whether the case merited criminal prosecution, imposed a below‐guideline sentence of two years of probation and a $2,000 fine. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part, first rejecting arguments that the witness tampering statute was void for vagueness and that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. The jury instructions for the witness tampering charges were faulty, however; under section 1512(b)(3), Edwards could be convicted only if she “corruptly” attempted to persuade another person to hinder, delay, or prevent communication of information to federal criminal investigators. The instructions given at trial failed to include the corruption element. View "United States v. Edwards" on Justia Law

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St. Vincent Health group acquired Randolph County Hospital and decided to replace the 80-year-old building. In 2002 the Hospital financed the project by borrowing $15.3 million from a fraternal corporation. Within a year, St. Vincent Health group was acquired by Ascension, the nation’s largest Roman Catholic health-care system. Ascension loaned the Hospital $15.6 million to refinance the loan. The Hospital sought reimbursement under 42 U.S.C. 1395f(b)(1), 1395x(v)(1)(A), and 42 C.F.R. 413.153, for “the necessary and proper costs of financing medical facilities.” Recognizing its problems with poor documentation, the Hospital withdrew its request that Medicare cover any expense before 2004 but requested compensation for 2004-2008, after Ascension had refinanced the loan in compliance with section 413.153(c)(2). The Provider Reimbursement Review Board ordered the 2004-2008 claims paid, finding that problems with the 2002 loan did not taint the refinancing. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reversed. The district court rejected reasoning concerning the initial loan but granted summary judgment, finding that the Hospital had not established that the Ascension loan refinanced that loan. The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating the “taint” theory is legally untenable and cannot be reasserted on remand, but the agency is free to request more or better documentation and to explore the significance of the difference in the principal amounts of the loans. View "St. Vincent Randolph Hospital, v. Price" on Justia Law

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Kolton deposited money into an interest-bearing bank account in Illinois. Years passed without activity in the account, so the bank transferred Kolton’s money to the state as the Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act requires. The Act is not an escheat statute; it gives Illinois custody, not ownership, of “presumed abandoned” property. Most such property gets invested, with any income that accrues earmarked for Illinois’s pensioners. Owners may file a claim for return of their property, but the Act limits the Treasurer to returning the amount received into custody. Kolton brought a purported class action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violation of the Takings Clause, which protects the time value of money just as much as it does money itself. The judge dismissed for want of subject-matter jurisdiction, stating that under the Supreme Court’s “Williamson” holding, a plaintiff usually must try to obtain compensation under state law before litigating a takings suit. Kolton filed neither a claim with the Treasurer nor a lawsuit in state court seeking just compensation. The Seventh Circuit vacated, noting that Section 1983 does not create a cause of action against the state and the Treasurer, personally, did not deprive Kolton of his money. Williamson was not concerned with jurisdiction. View "Kolton v. Frerichs" on Justia Law

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Rosewood is a skilled nursing facility, 42 U.S.C. 1395i-3(a), participating in Medicare and Medicaid as a provider. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, which enforces the statutory and regulatory provisions governing nursing homes operating in the Medicare/Medicaid network, assessed a civil monetary penalty against Rosewood on the grounds that it had failed to protect a resident from abuse, failed to timely report or to investigate thoroughly allegations of abuse, and failed to implement its internal policies on abuse, neglect, and misappropriation of property. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determined that these deficiencies placed residents in “immediate jeopardy.” An Administrative Law Judge and the Department Appeals Board affirmed the $6,050 per day penalty imposed by CMS. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Substantial evidence supports the Agency’s findings. The court noted three specific examples of noncompliance and concluded that there was a systemic failure to implement Rosewood’s policies aimed at conforming to federal regulations View "Rosewood Care Center of Swansea v. Price" on Justia Law

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Winebow imports and distributes wines to downstream wholesalers. It wants to cut its ties with two wholesale distributors, which have had the exclusive right to sell and distribute Winebow products within specified regions of Wisconsin. The distributors claim that the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law bars Winebow from doing so—at least without any financial penalty. Under the Law, certain sellers (Wis. Stat. 135.02(5)) unilaterally may stop doing business with their existing distributors only if they have “good cause.” The Law does not regulate all grantor-distributor relationships. In 1999, the Wisconsin General Assembly sought to broaden the Law to ensure that all “intoxicating liquor” dealerships were protected. It included changes in the state’s budget bill, which amended the definition of a “dealership” so that large-volume distributors of “intoxicating liquor” were brought under the umbrella of the statute’s definition of a protected “dealership.” Several changes never came into effect, because then-Governor Thompson objected to treating wine dealerships the same as other alcohol dealerships. He partially vetoed the appropriations bill, striking significant portions of the changes to the Law. In Winebow’s declaratory judgment action, the Seventh Circuit certified to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin the question whether wine dealerships are automatically to be considered as “intoxicating liquor” dealerships for purposes of the Law. View "Winebow, Inc. v. Capitol-Husting Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, African-Americans, worked for Union Pacific as “Signal Helpers,” an entry‐level job. After a probationary period, both became eligible for promotion. Union Pacific did not respond to their requests to take a required test, then eliminated the Signal Helper position in their zones. Both were terminated. They filed charges with the EEOC. After receiving notification from the EEOC, Union Pacific provided some information but failed to respond to a request for company-wide information, despite issuance of a subpoena. The EEOC issued right‐to‐sue letters, 42 U.S.C. 2000e‐5(f)(1). Plaintiffs sued. The district court granted Union Pacific summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While that action was pending, the EEOC issued Union Pacific a second request for information, served a second subpoena, and brought an enforcement action. The district court denied Union Pacific’s motion to dismiss, rejecting its arguments that the EEOC lost its investigatory authority either after the issuance of a right to sue notice or when Union Pacific obtained a judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting a split in the Circuits. Given the EEOC’s broad role in preventing employment discrimination, including its independent authority to investigate charges of discrimination, especially at a company‐wide level, neither the issuance of a right‐to‐sue letter nor the entry of judgment in a lawsuit brought by individuals bars the EEOC from continuing its own investigation. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law