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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Dolin was prescribed Paxil, the brand-name version of the drug paroxetine, to treat his depression. The prescription was filled with a generic paroxetine product. Six days later, Dolin died by suicide. Federal law preempted an "inadequate labeling" state-law claim against the generic manufacturer. Mrs. Dolin sued GSK, the manufacturer of brand-name Paxil, arguing that GSK was responsible for the labeling for all paroxetine, no matter who made and sold it, and had negligently omitted an adult suicide risk. The Seventh Circuit reversed her jury verdict, based on preemption, citing the complex regulation of drug labels and of Paxil/paroxetine’s label in particular. GSK had attempted to change the Paxil label in 2007 to add an adult suicide warning. The FDA rejected that change. The court concluded that GSK lacked new information after 2007 that would have allowed it to add an adult-suicidality warning under the existing regulations. Eight days after denying Dolin certiorari, the Supreme Court decided another case, further explaining the “clear evidence” standard for impossibility preemption for prescription drug labels. Dolin filed an unsuccessful motion under FRCP 60(b)(6), arguing that the 2018 judgment should be set aside based on a change in law so that GSK could not establish its defense of impossibility preemption. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and did not impose sanctions. The Supreme Court provided important guidance but did not break new ground that would change the result in Dolin’s case. Her motion was not frivolous. View "Dolin v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC" on Justia Law

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Donald and Lauretta Bauer purchased land from Donald’s parents and executed promissory notes and a mortgage. When Donald’s parents died, their interest in the notes transferred to Donald's siblings, who sought foreclosure. A state court entered a foreclosure judgment and a deficiency judgment. No judicial sale occurred. The Bauers tried to redeem the property by satisfying the judgment. The foreclosure plaintiffs issued citations to discover assets and sought additional interest. The state court found that the Bauers owed an additional $33,782.96 in interest. The Bauers paid; the plaintiffs filed a satisfaction of judgment. The Bauers then sued, alleging tampering with evidence and abuse of process by seeking to extort money through the issuance of citations to discover assets. The state appellate court upheld the dismissal of the case. The Bauers filed a federal suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the defendants, including the state-court judge, conspired to introduce a forged document into evidence during the foreclosure trial and that the judge and the clerk allowed the plaintiffs to issue baseless citations to discover assets. The district court dismissed the case under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which precludes federal district-court jurisdiction “over cases brought by state-court losers challenging state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the Bauers’ argument that they did not seek to set aside the state court’s order or judgment but only mean to challenge the “collection practices” of the defendants and their collusion. Any finding in favor of the Bauers would require the federal court to contradict the state court’s orders. View "Bauer v. Koester" on Justia Law

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Elston and his friends were playing basketball at a DuPage County park, heckling one another with salty language. Demeter, an off-duty Kane County sheriff’s deputy, watching his child’s soccer game, demanded that they stop using expletives. Demeter flashed his badge and gun. The boys refused to clean up their language. Demeter grabbed Elston by the neck, threw him to the ground, and climbed on top of him. Bystanders separated the two. Demeter called 911, identifying himself as a police officer in need of assistance. Demeter told Elston’s father that he was a police officer attempting to take Elston into custody for disorderly conduct. Elston was never charged with any offense. Demeter pleaded guilty to violating Aurora’s ordinance against battery. Elston sued Demeter under 42 U.S.C. 1983, winning a default judgment and an award of $110,000. Elston also sued Kane County under Illinois’s Tort Immunity Act. The district court rejected the suit on summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Demeter was acting as a private citizen, not within the scope of his duties as a deputy when he injured Elston. Demeter was not acting substantially within the time and space limits authorized by his employment; that Demeter used his badge, gun, and training in an unauthorized manner in q purely personal pursuit does not bring his conduct within the scope of his employment. View "Elston v. County of Kane" on Justia Law

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Baez-Sanchez, a citizen of Mexico, is removable. His conviction for aggravated ba]ery of a police officer renders him inadmissible, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). He applied for a U visa, which is available to some admissible aliens who have been victims of crime in this country. An IJ granted a waiver of inadmissibility, 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(3)(A)(ii). The BIA remanded with instructions to consider an additional issue. The IJ did so and reaffirmed. The BIA then concluded that the power to waive inadmissibility belongs to the Attorney General alone and may not be exercised by immigration judges. The Seventh Circuit held that 8 C.F.R. 1003.10(a) permits IJs to exercise all of the Attorney General’s powers, except those expressly reserved by some other regulation. The BIA concluded that the court's decision was incorrect and did not consider the issues remanded by the court. Baez-Sanchez filed another petition for review. The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating that it had “never before encountered defiance of a remand order.” Article III judicial power is not subject to disapproval or revision by another branch of government. The Attorney General, the Secretary, and the BIA are free to maintain, in another case, that the decision was mistaken but they are not free to disregard a mandate in the very case making the decision. An immigration judge has ruled in favor of Baez-Sanchez; all issues have been resolved. Baez-Sanchez may seek a U visa. View "Baez-Sanchez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Under Ind. Code 31-14-7-1(1), a husband is presumed to be a child’s biological father; both spouses are listed as parents on the birth certificate and the child is deemed to be born in wedlock. There is no similar presumption with respect to a same-sex couple. The district court issued an injunction requiring Indiana to treat children born into female-female marriages as having two female parents, who must be listed on the birth certificate. Because Indiana lists only two parents on a birth certificate, this prevents the state from treating as a parent the man who provided the sperm but requires that one spouse, who provided neither sperm nor egg, be identified as a parent. The court reasoned that Indiana lists a husband as a biological parent (when a child is born during marriage) even if he did not provide sperm, and must treat a wife as a parent even if she did not provide an egg. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing the Supreme Court’s 2017 holding, Pavan v. Smith, that same-sex and opposite-sex couples must have the same rights with respect to the identification of children’s parentage on birth certificates. Indiana’s statutory presumption violates the Constitution. The court rejected the state’s arguments that the statutory presumption is rebuttable. View "Henderson v. Box" on Justia Law

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Prater was denied Social Security Disability Insurance benefits when she was 47-years-old and weighed about 400 pounds at 64 inches tall. X-rays showed mild-to-moderate degenerative joint disease in her feet and knees and degenerative disc disease in her spine. She was diabetic and had a history of gout. Prater stated that at her last job she experienced pain and fatigue “all the time.” None of her treating physicians indicated that she must alternate between sitting and standing. A vocational expert testified that a hypothetical individual with Prater's vocational background, education, and age, limited to sedentary work with restrictions on lifting, carrying, climbing, driving, and more, who could stand and walk no more than two hours of an eight-hour day and would need to change positions during the day but could remain in place for at least 30 minutes, whether sitting or standing, could not do any of Prater’s past jobs but could perform other jobs available in the national economy. The ALJ concluded that Prater was not disabled, finding that she had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work with numerous restrictions; that her statements about the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were “not entirely consistent” with the evidence; and that, although Prater was morbidly obese, “her physical examination was otherwise unremarkable.” The Appeals Council, the district court, and the Seventh Circuit upheld the decision. The sit/stand limitation in the RFC assessment is not too vague. The ALJ’s finding that she could sit and stand for 30 minutes at a time does not lack medical support; the ALJ did not improperly discredit her testimony that she could remain in position for only 20 minutes. View "Prater v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Years of heavy industrial use at Wisconsin's Badger Army Ammunition Plant contaminated the soil and groundwater with asbestos, lead paint, PCBs, and oil. Operations ceased in 1975. Remediation has yielded thousands of acres suitable for recreational use. The National Park Service donated 3,000 acres to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. An environmental group sued to halt three activities at the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area: dog training for hunting, off-road motorcycle riding, and helicopter drills by the Wisconsin National Guard citing the Property and Administrative Services Act, which controls deeds issued through the Federal Land to Parks Program, 40 U.S.C. 550. The Act requires the government to enforce the terms of its deeds and that the land be used for recreational purposes. The relevant deeds require that Wisconsin use the park for its originally intended purposes. Dog training and motorcycle riding were not mentioned in Wisconsin’s initial application. The group also argued that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, required an environmental impact statement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment. Dog training and off-road motorcycle riding were not mentioned in the application, but are recreational uses. While helicopter training is not recreational, the Service included an explicit deed provision reserving the right to continue the flights, as authorized by the Property Act. The Service reasonably concluded that its approval of dog training and motorcycle riding fell within a NEPA categorical exclusion for minor amendments to an existing plan. The Service was not required to prepare an environmental impact statement for helicopter training because it had no authority to discontinue the flights. View "Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Sergeant Mueller took a leave of absence from the Joliet Police Department to report for active duty in the Illinois National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. The Department placed him on unpaid leave, Mueller resigned from his National Guard position and sued the city and his supervisors for employment discrimination, citing the Uniformed Service Members Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which prohibits discrimination against those in “service in a uniformed service.” The district court dismissed, finding that National Guard counterdrug duty was authorized under Illinois law and not covered by USERRA. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that “service in the uniformed services” explicitly covers full-time National Guard duty, including counterdrug activities, 38 U.S.C. 4303(13). USERRA does not limit protection to those in “Federal service” like the Army or Navy but to those in “service in a uniformed service,” which explicitly includes Title 32 full-time National Guard duty. The Posse Comitatus Act likewise only bars the Army and Air Force from domestic law enforcement, but does not apply to Title 32 National Guard duty, 18 U.S.C. 1385. View "Mueller v. City of Joliet" on Justia Law

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Stegall applied and interviewed for a Social Security Administration (SSA) service representative position in 2010. Stegall claims she received an offer of employment at the end of her interview. Stegall subsequently disclosed her physical and mental disabilities, which she claims prompted the SSA to rescind the offer. The SSA denied offering Stegall a position, stating it never extends offers of employment during interviews, and that it deemed Stegall not motivated for public service due to her answers in the interview. Stegall claimed discrimination based on race and her mental and physical disabilities. The SSA denied Stegall’s claim. She appealed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and filed suit. Before trial, Stegall dismissed her race and mental disability discrimination claims. A jury found that Stegall had a disability, that the SSA regarded her as having a disability, and that the SSA failed to hire Stegall, but that even without her physical disability, Stegall would not have been hired. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the verdict went against the manifest weight of the evidence and that the court abused its discretion in admitting evidence relating to subsequent contradictory statements about her disability and evidence that SSA ultimately hired a candidate with a disability. View "Stegall v. Saul" on Justia Law

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For four years, nurse practitioner Jordan treated Clanton’s severe hypertension. Jordan, an employee of the U.S. Public Health Service, failed to properly educate Clanton about his disease or to monitor its advancement. Clanton’s hypertension developed into Stage V kidney disease requiring dialysis and a transplant. Clanton successfully sued the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The court determined that Clanton had not contributed at all to his own injuries, noting that Clanton did not understand why it was important to take his medication and to attend appointments. The court awarded $30 million in damages. The Seventh Circuit vacated, finding that the court erred in its analysis of comparative negligence. Clanton’s subjective understanding does not end the inquiry. Illinois law requires the court to take the additional step of comparing Clanton’s understanding of his condition to that of a reasonable person in his situation. Clanton was in the position of a person whose caregiver failed to provide information about the severity of his condition but he had external clues that he was seriously unwell: two employment-related physicals showed that he had dangerously high blood pressure. The court upheld the court’s method of calculating damages and agreed that Clanton’s Medicare benefits are collateral to his damages award under Illinois law, so the government is not entitled to a partial offset. View "Clanton v. United States" on Justia Law