Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
by
Igasaki, a gay, Japanese-American, suffers from gout. From 1994 until his 2015 termination at age 62, Igasaki was an IDFPR staff attorney. In 2011, Forester gave Igasaki a good performance review; in 2012, Forester rated Igasaki poorly, providing specific examples of deficient performance. In 2013, IDFPR placed Igasaki on a corrective action plan. He subsequently received three reprimands. Igasaki made limited progress on seven of 12 plan requirements. The plan listed: failure to meet 50 deadlines; sleeping while at work; problems finding files; and lack of preparation for administrative proceedings. In 2014, the Igasaki was suspended for incompetence. Igasaki’s corrective action plan was again renewed. Igasaki received another suspension for insubordination. In Igasaki’s 2014 review, Forester rated him as needing improvement in all categories. In 2015, Forester noted that he had not progressed on six of the 12 requirements; for the first time, Igasaki formally requested accommodation for his gout. IDFPR granted Igasaki an ergonomic keyboard and authorization for an administrative assistant; Igasaki’s request for flexible deadlines, not supported by a doctor’s note, was denied. IDFPR terminated him weeks later.After filing charges with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC, Igasaki sued. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of IDFPR, rejecting claims of race discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation (Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2), age discrimination (Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 623), and disability discrimination (Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12112). View "Igasaki v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation" on Justia Law

by
Each holiday season, Jackson County, Indiana has a lighted Christmas display on the lawn of its historic courthouse. The display comprises a nativity scene, Santa Claus in his sleigh, a reindeer, carolers, and large candy-striped poles. The display has gone up each year since 2003 when the Ministerial Association purchased it; the secular Lion’s Club maintains and installs it. The County supplies electricity for the display. There is evidence that the courthouse had similar displays before 2003. Woodring, a Jackson County resident, sued, arguing that the nativity scene violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The district court permanently enjoined the County from displaying the nativity scene in its current arrangement.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Woodring has standing to sue, but the nativity scene complies with the Establishment Clause. The district court applied the “purpose” and “endorsement” tests that grew out of the Supreme Court’s 1971 "Lemon" decision but the Court’s 2019 "American Legion" decision requires the use of a different, more historical framework. The nativity scene fits within a long national tradition of using the nativity scene in broader holiday displays to celebrate the origins of Christmas—a public holiday. A governmental practice with historical support may be unconstitutional if it is intolerant or discriminatory toward differing views but Woodring supplied no good reason why the County’s nativity scene does not fit within the historical tradition outlined in Lynch. View "Woodring v. Jackson County" on Justia Law

by
Fisk, an LLC formed in 2018, had two members; one is an attorney. Fisk collaborated with the City of DeKalb regarding the redevelopment of a dilapidated property. Under a Development Incentive Agreement, if Fisk met certain contingencies, DeKalb would provide $2,500,000 in Tax Increment Financing. In 2019, Nicklas became the City Manager and opened new inquiries into Fisk’s financial affairs and development plans. Nicklas concluded Fisk did not have the necessary financial capacity or experience, based on specified factors.Fisk's Attorney Member had represented a client in a 2017 state court lawsuit in which Nicklas was a witness. Nicklas considered funding incentives for other development projects with which, Fisk alleged, Nicklas had previous financial and personal ties.The City Council found Fisk’s financial documents “barren of any assurance that the LLC could afford ongoing preliminary planning and engineering fees,” cited “insufficient project details,” and terminated the agreement. Fisk sued Nicklas under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging Nicklas sought to retaliate against Fisk and favor other developers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. Fisk did not exercise its First Amendment petition right in the 2017 lawsuit. That right ran to the client; Fisk did not yet exist. Fisk had no constitutionally protected property right in the agreement or in the city’s resolution, which did not bind or “substantively limit[]” the city “by mandating a particular result when certain clearly stated criteria are met.” Nicklas had a rational basis for blocking the project, so an Equal Protection claim failed. View "145 Fisk, LLC v. Nicklas" on Justia Law

by
Zellweger applied for disability benefits in 2013, claiming a per se disabling spinal condition equivalent to Listing 1.04. His amended onset date was August 28, 2013. His last-insured status expired on September 30, 2013, so the application presented a narrow question: whether he was disabled during the one-month period from August 28 to September 30 (42 U.S.C. 416(i)(3)(B)). The primary medical basis for his application was cervical and lumbar degenerative disc disease.An ALJ denied his claim, concluding that the medical evidence did not meet the criteria for Listing 1.04 and that Zellweger could perform light work. A magistrate reversed, ruling that the ALJ’s discussion was too cursory at step three of the sequential analysis prescribed in the agency regulations: assessing whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or medically equals one of the Listings. Although the ALJ explained his reasoning more thoroughly later in his decision, the magistrate refused to consider that discussion.The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The sequential process is not so rigidly compartmentalized. Nothing prohibits a reviewing court from reading an ALJ’s decision holistically. The ALJ thoroughly analyzed the medical evidence at the step in the sequential analysis that addresses the claimant’s residual functional capacity. That analysis elaborated on the more cursory discussion at step three and was easily adequate to support the ALJ’s rejection of a per se disability under Listing 1.04. View "Zellweger v. Saul" on Justia Law

by
The Okeres, U.S. citizens, are trying to get their eight-year-old son from Nigeria to the United States. They applied for a “certificate of identity,” which validates the identity of a person living abroad who purports to be a U.S. citizen but has not presented enough evidence of citizenship to obtain a passport, 8 U.S.C. 1503(b). They sued, asserting that, after their son finally received a travel document from the State Department, he has been prevented from boarding a flight to the U.S. because the Consulate General refused to verify the certificate’s authenticity with the airlines with which they had booked flights for their son.The district court dismissed the Okeres’ complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Okeres identified no legal authority compelling the Consulate General to verify the authenticity of the certificate to the airlines. None of the federal statutes the Okeres invoked confers jurisdiction. Nor do any of the provisions identified in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual create individual rights or impose enforceable duties on a Consulate General when issuing a certificate of identity. The court stated that its decision was “most unsatisfying, for it is impossible to read the parties’ briefs without concluding that something else is going on here.” View "Okere v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Wisconsin grants public-sector employees the right to bargain collectively through the State Employment Labor Relations Act (SELRA) and the Municipal Employment Relations Act (MERA). In 2011, SELRA and MERA were amended by Act 10, which divided Wisconsin state and municipal employees into “[p]ublic safety employee[s],” which includes police officers, firefighters, and deputy sheriffs, and “general municipal employee[s],” i.e., everyone else. A subsequent amendment created a class of “[t]ransit employee[s].” Public safety and transit employees and their unions continue to operate under the pre-Act 10 scheme but for general employees, Act 10 limited the scope of employers’ collective bargaining obligations, prohibiting bargaining over anything except increases to base wages and mandating that general employee unions submit to an annual recertification election. Certification now requires affirmative votes from an absolute majority of all employees in the bargaining unit, not just those voting. Act 10 bars public employers from deducting union dues from the earnings of general employees.The Seventh Circuit has previously rejected two challenges to Act 10’s constitutionality and affirmed the dismissal of this First Amendment suit, filed a public-employee labor union and two of its members, challenging the annual recertification requirement, the limitations on collective bargaining, and the prohibition on payroll deduction of union dues. View "International Union of Operating Engineers v. Daley" on Justia Law

by
Between 1983-2015, Heneghan was an associated person (AP) of 14 different National Futures Association (NFA)-member firms. Troyer invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial derivatives through NFA Members. The first interaction between Troyer and Heneghan was in 2008. After receiving an unsolicited phone call from Heneghan, Troyer invested more than $160,000. Despite changes in Heneghan’s entity affiliation, his working relationship with Troyer remained constant. At one point, Heneghan’s then-firm, Statewide, withdrew from the NFA following an investigation. Heneghan was the subject of a four-month NFA approval-hold in 2012. Troyer began sending money to Heneghan personally in 2013, allegedly to obtain trading firm employee discounts; these investments totaled $82,000. Troyer neither received nor asked for any investment documentation for this investment. In 2016-2015, NFA investigated Heneghan’s then-firm, PMI, Despite Troyer’s alleged substantial investment, no PMI accounts were listed for either Troyer or Heneghan. In 2015, Troyer directed Heneghan to cash out the fund; “all hell broke loose.” In 2016, the NFA permanently barred Heneghan from NFA membership. Troyer filed suit under the Commodities Exchange Act. 7 U.S.C. 25(b).The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of Troyer’s claim. NFA Bylaw 301(a)(ii)(D), which bars persons from becoming or remaining NFA Members if their conduct was the cause of NFA expulsion, is inapplicable. Statewide’s agreement not to reapply represented a distinct sanction from expulsion and did not trigger Bylaw 301(a)(ii)(D). View "Troyer v. National Futures Association" on Justia Law

by
Alleging debilitating pain in her back, legs, and hands, Zoch sought disability insurance benefits, 42 U.S.C. 413, 423. An ALJ denied the application, finding that, based on the opinions of three of her four treating physicians, a consulting physician, and the objective medical evidence, she could perform sedentary work.The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Zoch’s arguments that the ALJ improperly discounted her assertions and an opinion by a physician who relied on those assertions. Substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision. Zoch’s testimony of incapacitating pain conflicted with the objective medical evidence, including normal test results: lumbar MRI, wrist x-rays, range of motion, straight-leg raising, strength in extremities, and pressure on her nerves. Zoch’s testimony that she usually walked with a cane conflicted with the doctors’ reports that at all but one appointment she walked normally. Zoch’s testimony that she could not raise her arms or bend over to dress conflicted with a doctor’s observation that Zoch could comfortably bend over to touch her fingertips to her knees. Zoch’s hearing testimony that she could not perform the usual activities of daily living was inconsistent with her assertions in her application. View "Zoch v. Saul" on Justia Law

by
Vargas began working as a mail carrier in 2005. Mail carriers must be able to carry up to 35 pounds in their shoulder bags. Vargas’s route also required shuttling mail and equipment weighing up to 75 pounds between the post office and a satellite location. Vargas sustained an on-the-job foot injury in 2008. He was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, received treatment, submitted a successful workers’ compensation claim, and continued working. In 2011, Vargas filed an EEO complaint, raising miscellaneous workplace grievances and alleging race- and disability-related discrimination. He withdrew this complaint. Vargas’s plantar fasciitis subsequently flared up. His doctor placed him on work restrictions, March 1-22, prohibiting him from carrying more than 15 pounds. On March 14, Vargas returned to work from a vacation; he wanted his route restructured to eliminate carrying heavy loads. His superiors did not oblige and he applied for workers’ compensation. He also made daily requests for “light duty” but there was no light duty work available, so he took paid sick leave.Vargas, who is Hispanic, sued, alleging disability-based discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, with retaliation and racial discrimination claims under Title VII. Vargas still works for the Postal Service. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting his claims. Vargas could not perform the only job available to him, with or without reasonable accommodation, and there is no evidence he was treated differently because of his race or suffered unlawful workplace retaliation. View "Vargas v. DeJoy" on Justia Law

by
Makhsous owned three Wisconsin residential care facilities. In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) found that two of Makhsous’s facilities did not comply with Wisconsin law. Daye is the supervisor of the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Marinette County, which makes recommendations to individuals who inquire about residential care facilities. It does not place individuals in care facilities, monitor care facilities, or issue citations or sanctions to care facilities. In 2016, the ADRC began publishing a “facility directory” for potential residents. Under Wisconsin’s ADRC Operational Practice Guidelines, the directory cannot include facilities that have been found in violation of law.Makhsous filed suit, alleging that Daye violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses by failing to include Makhsous’s facilities in the ADRC directory and refusing to refer individuals to her facilities. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Daye. Makhsous did not show that Daye harmed a constitutionally protected property interest or discriminated against her. The ADRC directory did not include Makhsous’s facilities because they were found deficient by DHS and because Makhsous failed to ask the ADRC to include them. Makhsous had no rebuttal evidence showing that Daye failed to include her facilities in the directory because of her race. View "Makhsous v. Daye" on Justia Law