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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

by
In 2005 Paramount leased a parcel of highway-adjacent property in Bellwood, Illinois, planning to erect a billboard. Paramount never applied for a local permit. When Bellwood enacted a ban on new billboard permits in 2009, Paramount lost the opportunity to build its sign. Paramount later sought to take advantage of an exception to the ban for village-owned property, offering to lease a different parcel of highway-adjacent property directly from Bellwood. Bellwood accepted an offer from Image, one of Paramount’s competitors. Paramount sued Bellwood and Image, alleging First Amendment, equal-protection, due-process, Sherman Act, and state-law violations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Paramount lost its lease while the suit was pending, which mooted its claim for injunctive relief from the sign ban. The claim for damages was time-barred, except for an alleged equal-protection violation. That claim failed because Paramount was not similarly situated to Image; Paramount offered Bellwood $1,140,000 in increasing installments over 40 years while Image offered a lump sum of $800,000. Bellwood and Image are immune from Paramount’s antitrust claims. The court did not consider whether a market-participant exception to that immunity exists because Paramount failed to support its antitrust claims. View "Paramount Media Group, Inc. v. Village of Bellwood" on Justia Law

by
American, a Cincinnati-based title insurance company, is owned by attorneys Yonas and Rink. The Indiana Department of Insurance randomly audited American and found hundreds of code violations, none of which American denies. Examiners recommended a fine of $70,082 plus $42,202 in consumer reimbursements after deviating upward from the guidelines recommendation. After negotiation, the examiners refused to adjust the fines and added a new sanction: the owners would lose their licenses to do business in Indiana. The Department’s attorney informed American that it could seek administrative review but could face the maximum fine of $9.5 million. American agreed to the recommended sanctions, “voluntarily and freely waive[d] the right to judicial review,” and paid the fees. Yonas and Rink gave up their licenses. Months later, American sued the Department’s Commissioner, Robertson, alleging that the Department imposed higher penalties because American is based in Ohio, not Indiana. American’s equal-protection case rested on expert testimony based on a statistical analysis that found that when the Department audits out-of-state companies, it tends to deviate more from its guidelines than when it audits in-state companies; a comment by a Department examiner made during a recorded phone call; and that Robertson was unable to say definitively during his deposition that no one in his department was motivated by in-state bias. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Robertson without reaching the equal protection claim. American offered no meaningful reason to ignore the agreed order. View "American Homeland Title Agency, Inc. v. Robertson" on Justia Law

by
Schaumburg’s 2016 ordinance requires commercial buildings to send fire‐alarm signals directly to the local 911 dispatch center, NWCDS, which has an exclusive arrangement with Tyco. To send signals to NWCDS, local buildings must use Tyco equipment. Schaumburg’s notice of the ordinance referred to connection through Tyco and stated that accounts would be charged $81 per month to rent Tyco’s radio transmitters and for the monitoring service. Tyco pays NWCDS an administrative fee of $23 per month for each account it connects to the NWCDS equipment. Tyco’s competitors filed suit charging violations of constitutional, antitrust, and state tort law. The district court dismissed the case. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the Contracts Clause claim against Schaumburg. The complaint alleges a potentially significant impairment, the early cancellation of the competitors’ contracts, and Schaumburg’s self‐interest, $300,000 it stands to gain. The court otherwise affirmed, noting that entities not alleged to have taken legislative action cannot be liable under the Contracts Clause. WIth respect to constitutional claims, the court noted the government’s important interest in fire safety. Rejecting antitrust claims, the court stated that the complaint did not allege a prohibited agreement, as opposed to an independent, legislative decision. View "Alarm Detection Systems, Inc. v. Village of Schaumburg" on Justia Law

by
Four Illinois Villages passed ordinances that require commercial buildings to send fire-alarm signals directly to the local 911 dispatch center through one alarm-system provider, Tyco, which services the area pursuant to an exclusive agreement with the dispatch center. An alarm-system competitor, ADS, sued, citing the Illinois Fire Protection District Act, the Sherman Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Sherman Act claims fail because they are premised on the unilateral actions of the Villages, which ADS did not sue. The court noted that ADS can compete for the contract now held by Tyco. ADS’s substantive due process claim asserted that the district acted arbitrarily and irrationally by going with an exclusive provider rather than entertaining ADS’s efforts at alternative, methods. The ordinances effectively require the district to work with an exclusive provider and there was thus a rational basis to choose an exclusive provider. View "Alarm Detection Systems, Inc. v. Orland Fire Protection District" on Justia Law

by
GL services repayment of Nelson's federally-insured student loans. On its website, GL tells borrowers struggling to make their loan payments: “Our trained experts work on your behalf,” and “You don’t have to pay for student loan services or advice,” because “Our expert representatives have access to your latest student loan information and understand all of your options.” Nelson alleged that when she and other members of the putative class struggled to make payments, GL steered borrowers into repayment plans that were to its advantage and to borrowers’ detriment. She alleged violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, constructive fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. The district court dismissed the claims as preempted by a federal Higher Education Act provision: “Loans made, insured, or guaranteed pursuant to a program authorized by ... the Higher Education Act ... shall not be subject to any disclosure requirements of any State Law,” 20 U.S.C. 1098g. The Seventh Circuit vacated. When a loan servicer holds itself out as having experts who work for borrowers, tells borrowers that they need not look elsewhere for advice, and tells them that its experts know what options are in their best interest, those statements, when untrue, are not mere failures to disclose information but are affirmative misrepresentations. A borrower who reasonably relied on them to her detriment is not barred from bringing state‐law consumer protection and tort claims. View "Nelson v. Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Chicago's Code permits the city to immobilize and impound a vehicle if its owner has three or more “final determinations of liability,” or two final determinations that are over a year old, “for parking, standing, compliance, automated traffic law enforcement system, or automated speed enforcement system violation[s].” Fines range from $25 to $500. Failure to pay the fine within 25 days automatically doubles the penalty. After a vehicle is impounded, the owner is further subjected to towing and storage fees and to the city’s costs and attorney’s fees. A 2016 amendment created a possessory lien in favor of the city in the amount required to obtain the vehicle's release. Chicago began refusing to release impounded vehicles to debtors who had filed Chapter 13 petitions. In each of four consolidated cases, the bankruptcy courts each held that Chicago violated the automatic stay by “exercising control” over bankruptcy estate property and that none of the exceptions to the stay applied. The courts ordered the city to return debtors’ vehicles and imposed sanctions for violating the stay. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that it addressed the issue in 2009 and held that a creditor must comply with the automatic stay and return a debtor’s vehicle upon her filing of a bankruptcy petition. View "City of Chicago v. Fulton" on Justia Law

by
Lopez-Aguilar went to the Indianapolis Marion County Courthouse for a hearing on a misdemeanor complaint charging him with driving without a license. Officers of the Sheriff’s Department informed him that an ICE officer had come to the courthouse earlier that day looking for him. He alleges that Sergeant Davis took him into custody. Later that day, Lopez-Aguilar appeared in traffic court and resolved his misdemeanor charge with no sentence of incarceration. Sergeant Davis nevertheless took Lopez-Aguilar into custody. He was transferred to ICE the next day. Neither federal nor state authorities charged Lopez-Aguilar with a crime; he did not appear before a judicial officer. ICE subsequently released him on his own recognizance. An unspecified “immigration case” against Lopez-Aguilar was pending when he sued county officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Following discovery, the parties settled the case. The district court approved the Stipulated Judgment over the objection of the federal government and denied Indiana’s motion to intervene to appeal. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The state’s motion to intervene was timely and fulfilled the necessary conditions for intervention of right. The district court was without jurisdiction to enter prospective injunctive relief. The Stipulated Judgment interferes directly and substantially with the use of state police power to cooperate with the federal government in the enforcement of immigration laws. View "Lopez-Aguilar v. Indiana" on Justia Law

by
The district court found that Spectrum violated the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. 2064(b)(3), when its subsidiary failed to timely report to the government a potentially hazardous defect in its Black & Decker SpaceMaker coffeemaker. In 2009, there were multiple complaints that the plastic handle on the coffeemaker’s carafe had broken. In one instance, the handle's failure caused a consumer to suffer a burn from the hot coffee in the carafe. Spectrum ordered design changes, but continued to sell the product and did not file a section 15(b) report with the Commission until April 2012. The court entered a permanent injunction, requiring Spectrum to adhere to its newly-implemented CPSA compliance practices and to retain an independent consultant to recommend additional modifications to those practices. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Spectrum’s argument that the late-reporting claim was barred by the statute of limitations and that the court abused its discretion in awarding permanent injunctive relief, including the requirement that it engage the expert. Spectrum’s failure to report constituted a continuing violation that did not end until Spectrum finally submitted a report; the statute of limitations did not begin to run until 2012. Given the gravity of its failures and the delay in compliance, the district court justifiably concluded that there was a reasonable likelihood that Spectrum might again commit similar violations in the future. View "United States v. Spectrum Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2005, Joliet proposed to condemn and raze New West's apartments as a public nuisance. By 2017 the district court held that Joliet is entitled to condemn the buildings, set just compensation at $15 million, and held that New West cannot obtain relief against the city under federal housing discrimination statutes. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The parties then disputed the status of a reserve fund, about $2.8 million, that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) held for the federally-subsidized apartment complex. New West argued that the money came from rents to which it was entitled by contract with HUD and that, once it no longer had responsibility for the buildings, HUD must write it a check. The district court recognized that the fund was not part of the condemnation or housing-discrimination suits, but nonetheless rejected New West’s claim and concluded that the fund should accompany the buildings. The Seventh Circuit vacated. HUD controls the reserve fund and is the only entity that can use or disburse it; HUD was dismissed as a party in 2013. The court lacked authority to order HUD to do anything. New West needs to file a new action, seeking an order that the federal government pay it a sum of money, in the Court of Federal Claims, under the Tucker Act or in the district court. “In either forum, the judge should start from scratch, disregarding the missteps in the condemnation suit.” View "Joliet v. New West, L.P." on Justia Law

by
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