Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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In 2011, Cosenza sought disability benefits on behalf of her minor son. An ALJ determined that J.M.F. was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied her request for review. Cosenza argued that the ALJ improperly found that her son’s autism and Asperger’s syndrome were not “medically determinable” impairments. The district judge granted Cosenza summary judgment and remanded under 42 U.S.C. 405(g); 5), terminating the case in the district court. On remand, another ALJ conducted a hearing in March 2016. In June Cosenza filed a motion in the closed federal case to hold the Commissioner in contempt “for not following court-ordered remand.” In July the ALJ ruled against Cosenza. Cosenza did not wait for the decision to become final but moved for summary judgment in the closed federal case and filed a letter with the Appeals Council requesting review. The district court granted the agency’s motion to strike, reasoning that it had relinquished jurisdiction over Cosenza’s first case; as to most recent decision, the administrative appeals process had not finished so no final decision existed for judicial review. Cosenza had not shown that the Commissioner violated the court’s remand order. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A district court lacks jurisdiction under the Social Security Act to review an ALJ’s unfavorable decision until the agency’s decision is final; the Appeals Council has not yet decided whether to review the ALJ’s decision. View "Cosenza v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Cortina, a now-dissolved corporation, was wholly-owned by the Trust. The Trust’s beneficiaries lived in Illinois when the Trust was established; in the 1980s, they relocated to Arizona. In 2011, the Trust became an Arizona trust. Brook, an Illinois resident, was the president of Cortina and the Trust's trustee. In 2001, Brook retained an Arizona firm to represent Cortina in a lawsuit concerning a ground lease created when Cortina sold land in Arizona. The suit was dismissed in 2002. In 2005, and in 2013, Cortina sought additional legal advice from the firm related to the same lease. In 2014, Cortina requested that the firm initiate a nonjudicial foreclosure on the property. The firm decided that involvement in the foreclosure would pose a conflict of interest and declined the case. Throughout the firm’s 13 years representing Cortina, the parties exchanged phone calls and correspondence between Arizona and Illinois, but all in-person meetings occurred in Arizona. Cortina sued the firm in Illinois alleging legal malpractice, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. After the district court requested a jurisdictional statement, Cortina substituted Brook as the plaintiff. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction. While the defendants entered into a business relationship with an Illinois plaintiff, the activities were strictly conducted in Arizona. There was no evidence that Defendants reached out to or solicited Cortina, the Trust, or Brook. View "Brook v. McCormley" on Justia Law

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Bernstein, an attorney appointed under the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. 3006A, to represent an indigent defendant in federal district court, hired forensic expert Speckin to analyze evidence for the defense. Bernstein disregarded the Act’s rules and failed to obtain the court’s preapproval; he submitted a voucher for the expert’s services six months after his client was sentenced, requesting $15142.90, about six times the statutory cap. The judge would not approve it. Speckin sued Bernstein in a Michigan state court, which entered a default judgment against Bernstein. Bernstein then unsuccessfully asked the federal district judge to vacate the state-court judgment or enjoin its enforcement. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. No statute authorized the district court to review the Michigan judgment. Bernstein hired Speckin outside the bounds of the CJA, so their dispute is one of private contract and governed by state law. The Anti-Injunction Act prohibits federal courts from granting an “injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments,” 28 U.S.C. 2283. Nothing in the CJA comes close to authorizing an injunction of state-court proceedings. View "United States v. Alkaramla" 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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Boiron makes homeopathic products, including an over‐the‐counter remedy called Oscillo that retails for between $12 and $20. Oscillo is made by mixing one percent Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum (duck hearts and livers) with 99 percent water, repeating the dilution process 200 times, and then selling the result in pill form. The repeated dilutions render the finished product nothing more than a placebo. Boiron’s claim that Oscillo has a therapeutic effect on flu symptoms is “highly doubtful.” Conrad filed a class action against Boiron for deceptive marketing. About a year later Boiron offered Conrad $5,025, more than he could hope to win at trial. Conrad did not accept the money because it would moot his claim. The district court refused to certify Conrad’s proposed class and found his individual claim moot. The Seventh Circuit remanded; an unaccepted offer cannot moot a case. There are other measures available to address the problem (if it exists here) of “unreasonably and vexatiously” persisting in litigation, such as 28 U.S.C. 1927, but the district court did not decide whether they should be used. View "Conrad v. Boiron, Inc." 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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Husband and wife paid $83,475 for a new Volvo T8, plus $2,700 for a charging station. Volvo’s advertisements claimed that the T8’s battery range was 25 miles. In practice their T8 averaged a eight-10 miles of battery‐only driving. Husband filed suit, asserting a class of others similarly situated under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), and received a letter from Volvo that offered “a full refund upon return of the vehicle if you are not satisfied with it for any reason” and to “arrange to pick up your vehicle.” The next day Volvo moved to dismiss husband’s suit on the theory that he lacked standing because only his wife was on the car’s title. Before the court ruled on the motion, his wife was added to the complaint. Volvo moved to dismiss, contending that she lacked standing because its letter had offered complete relief before she filed suit. The district judge agreed and dismissed. The Seventh Circuit reversed, seeing “no reason why the timing of the offer has such a powerful effect. Offers do not bind recipients until they are accepted. An unaccepted pre‐litigation offer does not deprive a plaintiff of her day in court. View "Laurens v. Volvo Cars of North America, LLC" on Justia Law

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Rose bought $120,000 of products on credit from Caudill and did not pay. Before a district court ruled for Caudill, Rose gave 440 acres of land to his son Matt, then filed for bankruptcy. Caudill began an adversary proceeding, asking the judge to pull the land into the estate under 11 U.S.C. 548. The bankruptcy trustee's similar request was settled for payment of $100,000. The bankruptcy judge approved that settlement over Caudill’s objection. To get a discharge, Rose reaffirmed his debt to Caudill. He promised to pay $100,000, with an immediate $15,000; failure to pay entitles Caudill to a judgment for $300,000. Rose paid the $15,000 but nothing more. Caudill might have sought to rescind the discharge, but filed a new suit based on the reaffirmation agreement, obtaining a $285,000 default judgment. Rose failed to pay. Caudill commenced supplemental proceedings, contending that, under Indiana law, it can execute on the land that was fraudulently conveyed to Matt. Rose and Matt did not deny that the transfer was a fraudulent conveyance but argued that the settlement of the Trustee’s claim precluded further action to collect Rose’s debts from the value of the land. The district court and Seventh Circuit rejected that argument, observing that issue preclusion depends on an actual decision, by a judge, that is necessary to the earlier litigation. Whether the transfer of the land was a fraudulent conveyance was not actually litigated; the Trustee’s claim was settled. View "Caudill Seed & Warehouse Co. v. Rose" on Justia Law

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Walker, classified as a sexually violent person, has lived in the Rushville Treatment & Detention Center since 2007 when he finished serving a sentence in an Illinois prison. Walker's treatment team assigned him a “decision-making model,” which is an exercise or treatment tool in which the detainee examines his thought processes associated with a particular decision; Walker believed the assignment was retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights. He brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. At trial, Walker represented himself, but he received help from standby counsel recruited by the court. Walker took an active role in managing his case; he testified, questioned witnesses, introduced exhibits into evidence, and objected to defense counsel’s questions at several points. The jury found for the defendants on all counts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim that the district court’s jury instructions on the First Amendment retaliation claim were erroneous. Walker failed to object to the instructions, and he cannot clear the high bar for showing a plain error. Walker also waived an argument that the court erred in admitting privileged and prejudicial treatment records into evidence. View "Walker v. Groot" on Justia Law