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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Daugherty, an ALJ hearing disability-benefits applications for the Social Security Administration, took bribes. Conn, who represented many claimants, paid Daugherty $400 per favorable decision; Conn received $5,000 or more per case out of the benefits that Daugherty awarded. Four physicians, including Huffnagle, submitted evaluations to support Daugherty’s decisions, even if the applicant failed to appear for examination. Conn and Daugherty pleaded guilty to federal felonies. One of the physicians was convicted. Huffnagle died. The total cost of benefits granted by Daugherty exceeds $500 million. Following an investigation, a notice under 42 U.S.C. 1320a–8(l), set in motion a process for redetermination of the benefits awarded in connection with the scheme. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 405(g), 1383(c)(3), Jaxson claimed that the ALJ who presided over his redetermination should have considered Huffnagle’s report but declined to do so only because an internal claims-processing manual and ruling say that an ALJ cannot accept evidence that the Inspector General found is likely a product of fraud. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a ruling in favor of Jaxson. Jaxson may have a hard time persuading an ALJ that there is not even “reason to believe” that Huffnagle’s report is fraudulent but he is entitled to try; 42 U.S.C. 405(b)(1), requires a “reasonable notice and opportunity for a hearing”, and “hearing” means a procedure at which both sides can present views on potentially dispositive matters. View "Jaxson v. Saul" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Seaway Bank sued J&A to collect on loans secured by a mortgage on Chicago property. In 2013, the court entered a judgment of foreclosure. The court approved the sale of the mortgaged property and entered a $116,381 deficiency judgment against the guarantor. In 2017, Illinois regulators closed Seaway. The FDIC was appointed as receiver, set a claims bar date, and published notice. J&A filed no timely claims. Months later, J&A filed a Petition to Quash Service in the 2012 state-court lawsuit. J&A argued that once relief was granted, it was entitled to the property. The FDIC removed the proceeding to federal court and moved to stay the proceedings to allow J&A to exhaust the mandatory claims process under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act, 12 U.S.C. 1821(d). The court granted the stay; J&A did not submit any claims by the submission deadline. The FDIC moved to dismiss for failure to exhaust the Act's claims process. J&A asserted that the jurisdiction-stripping provision applied only to claims seeking payment from a failed bank and that J&A did not seek payment but only to quash service and vacate void orders; only if the court granted that non-monetary relief could they pursue “possessory relief,” so that the FDIC’s motion was not ripe because they were not yet seeking the return of the property or monetary relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The district court lacked jurisdiction over the Petition because J&A failed to exhaust administrative remedies. View "Seaway Bank & Trust Co. v. J&A Series I, LLC, Series C" on Justia Law

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In March 2020, Illinois Governor Pritzker issued an executive order to reduce transmission of the coronavirus that, among other things, capped at 10 the number of people who could attend religious gatherings. A list of “essential” functions exempt from the 10-person cap included organizations providing food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life. Other gatherings, such as concerts, are forbidden, regardless of size. The plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, arguing that the limit effectively foreclosed in-person religious services, even though they were free to hold multiple 10-person services, and that alternatives—online services or services in parking lots while worshipers remain in cars—are inadequate. Before the case was argued, the Governor issued a new order, which permits the resumption of all religious services, with the 10-person cap as a “recommendation.” The Seventh Circuit found that the issue was not moot but declined to grant relief. Illinois has not discriminated against religion and has not violated the First Amendment. While warehouse workers and people who assist the needy may be at the same risk as people who gather for large religious worship, movies and concerts are a better comparison group. By that standard, any discrimination has been in favor of religion. While all theaters and concert halls in Illinois have been closed since mid-March, sanctuaries and houses of worship were open, though to smaller gatherings. View "Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church v. Pritzker" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Seventh Circuit held that Chicago is entitled to limit sales on the streets adjacent to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, but remanded a magazine seller’s contention that an ordinance requiring all peddlers to be licensed was invalid because of an exception for newspapers. Before the judge acted on remand, Chicago amended its ordinance to provide: It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the business of a peddler without first having obtained a street peddler license under this chapter. Provided, however, a street peddler license is not required for selling, … only newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, or other similar written materials on the public way. There is no distinction between newspapers and magazines. Left Field Media withdrew its request for an injunction but sought damages to compensate for injury before the amendment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for want of a justiciable controversy. Left Field did not show any injury. It did not assert other costs, such as overtime wages or legal fees incurred to attempt to get a license. Because Left Field has not offered details, it would not be possible to conclude that it suffered even a dollar in marginal costs. View "Left Field Media LLC v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Attorney General imposed conditions on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG), 34 U.S.C.10151, which the primary source of federal criminal justice enforcement funding for state and local governments. The district court granted a preliminary injunction as to conditions that required that state or local officials honor requests to provide federal agents advance notice of the scheduled release of aliens in custody and that state or local correctional facilities give federal agents access to aliens in their custody. The Seventh Circuit upheld a nationwide injunction. The district court granted a permanent injunction and invalidated a condition requiring that state or local governments certify their compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373, which prohibits them from restricting their officials from communicating information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any individual to the INS, was unconstitutional but stayed the injunction to the extent that it applied beyond Chicago. The Seventh Circuit again held that the Attorney General cannot pursue the executive branch's policy objectives through the power of the purse or the arm of local law enforcement, rejecting the Attorney General’s assertion that Congress itself provided that authority in the language of the statutes. Chicago has determined that effective law enforcement requires the cooperation of its undocumented residents; such cooperation cannot be accomplished if those residents fear immigration consequences should they communicate with the police; and, local law enforcement must remain independent from federal immigration enforcement. The Byrne JAG grant was enacted to support the needs of local law enforcement to help fight crime, but “is being used as a hammer to further a completely different policy of the executive branch.” States do not forfeit all autonomy over their own police power merely by accepting federal grants. There is no reason to stay the application of the injunction. View "City of Chicago v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Fuqua, a mail handler, was forced to transfer to a new location when his Chicago center was downsized. He did not receive placement within 30 miles of his home. He refused to appear for work in Kansas City and was fired. Fuqua alleged his termination caused him emotional distress and made an administrative claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671. The Postal Service denied his claim, ruling that his exclusive remedy was through the Department of Labor (DOL) under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), 5 U.S.C. 8101. Fuqua filed suit for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress under the FTCA. During a stay in the proceedings, Fuqua corresponded with the DOL alleging he was injured because of defendants’ “extreme and outrageous conduct refusing to allow [him] to become assigned a station closer to [his] residence.” The DOL denied his FECA claim, explaining “[e]motional conditions that arise out of administrative and personnel matters, such as termination of employment are usually covered only if the weight of the evidence supports that the employer acted in an abusive manner or erred.” The district court dismissed Fuqua’s case. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. FECA applied to Fuqua’s claim, its administrative scheme ran its course, and his claim was denied for lack of evidence. The district court had no subject matter jurisdiction over his FTCA claims. Fuqua’s allegation falls within the “transfer, or reassignment” definition of “personnel action.” View "Fuqua v. United States Postal Service" on Justia Law

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Mayle, a self-proclaimed Satanist, is a follower of The Law of Thelema, a set of beliefs developed in the early 1900s by Aleister Crowley. As part of this religion, Mayle participates in what he calls “sex magick rituals” that he believes violate Illinois laws forbidding adultery and fornication. He claims that he reasonably fears prosecution for practicing his beliefs. He also says that he wants to marry more than one person at the same time and that if he were to do so, he would violate an Illinois law against bigamy. Mayle’s first challenge to the laws was dismissed. Mayle did not appeal, but the next year he filed another suit challenging the same statutes. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the second suit, first rejecting a challenge to the district court’s grant of a two-day extension to allow Mayle to file a notice of appeal. Mayle’s bigamy claim was precluded by the 2017 final judgment on the merits. Mayle lacked standing to challenge the state’s adultery and fornication laws because he still showed no reasonable fear of prosecution; those laws are no longer enforced. View "Mayle v. Illinois" on Justia Law

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An Illinois municipality may join the Municipal League, an unincorporated, nonprofit, nonpolitical association, and may pay annual membership dues and fees; member municipalities may act through the League to provide and disseminate information and research services and do other acts for improving local government, 65 ILCS 5/1-8-1. Lincolnshire is one of more than a thousand dues-paying League members and uses tax revenue to pay the dues from the Village’s General Fund. From 2013-2018, Lincolnshire paid at least $5,051 in voluntary dues and fees to the League. Individual residents and the Unions sued, claiming First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause violations. They claimed that Lincolnshire compelled them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern because the League sent emails promoting a particular political agenda, including the adoption of “right to work” zones. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Lincolnshire itself has the right to speak for itself and a right to associate; it voluntarily joined the League as it is authorized to do. Local governments must be allowed to discuss, either directly or through a surrogate, ideas related to municipal government, regardless of where those ideas originated. View "O'Brien v. Village of Lincolnshire" on Justia Law

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The Center lodged a FOIA request with the Department of Justice (DOJ) for records of communications between the Attorney General, the Office of the Attorney General and any Office of Immigration Litigation or Office of the Solicitor General lawyers related to 11 certified cases decided in 2002-2009. DOJ produced about 1,000 pages but withheld 4,000 pages, citing FOIA Exemption 5, which allows the withholding of agency memoranda not subject to disclosure in the ordinary course of litigation, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(5). Exemption 5 encompasses the attorney work product, attorney-client, and deliberative process privileges. DOJ submitted a Vaughn index describing each document withheld, identifying documents reflecting discussions between attorneys working within different offices of issues related to immigration cases under consideration or on certification for decision by the Attorney General. The Center unsuccessfully argued that the documents contained ex parte communications outside Exemption 5's scope because the DOJ attorneys’ eventual litigation role taints the advice they provide the Attorney General at the certification stage; removal proceedings end in federal court litigation where those same attorneys are opposite the immigrant. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Office of Immigration Litigation and Solicitor General attorneys do not hold interests adverse to the noncitizen at the stage at which the Attorney General certifies a case for decision. “ To conclude otherwise would chill the deliberations that department and agency heads like the Attorney General undertake in confidence to execute the weighty responsibilities of their offices.” View "National Immigrant Justice Center v. United States Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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Until 2010, Reinaas, now in his mid‐fifties, worked as a machine operator. He injured his spine and tore his rotator cuff on the job, and underwent two neck fusion surgeries. Reinaas planned to return to work but continued to suffer from severe headaches (treated with hydrocodone), shoulder pain, and a decreased range of motion. A neurologist diagnosed him with cervicogenic headaches, and his family doctor diagnosed “long term nuchal headaches” and “[p]ermanent pain syndrome post cervical fusion.” Dr. Bodeau, a Mayo Clinic occupational physician, opined that Reinaas could not return to his factory job and suggested surgical intervention. In 2013, Reinaas had shoulder surgery and attended physical therapy; he took naproxen and Vicodin for pain. Reinaas applied for social security disability benefits. Benefits were denied after state‐retained physicians reviewed his records and concluded that Reinaas’s accounts of his symptoms were not fully credible. Dr. Bodeau opined that Reinaas had “deteriorated significantly” and was “highly unlikely to successfully regain employment at any physical demand level.” The ALJ concluded that Reinaas was not disabled. In determining Reinaas’s residual functional capacity, the ALJ afforded great weight to the opinions of the two non‐examining physicians and gave little weight to Dr. Bodeau’s opinion, explaining that Bodeau lacked knowledge of Social Security disability rules and that his report was based on subjective complaints of questionable credibility. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Substantial evidence does not support the ALJ’s decision to discount the treating physician’s opinion and the ALJ did not adequately evaluate Reinaas’s subjective complaints. View "Reinaas v. Saul" on Justia Law