7th Circuit hears Planned Parenthood, JLAP appeals

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals heard two arguments in Indiana cases Oct. 20, one about how the state’s Medicaid money goes to Planned Parenthood and a second suit involving a man who claims he was discriminated against by being referred to the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program when applying to take the Indiana bar exam.

In the case of Planned Parenthood of Indiana v. Indiana, No. 11-2464, the state is asking the appellate court to reverse a decision earlier this year by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the Southern District of Indiana granting an injunction against the state defunding Planned Parenthood.

Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, argued that the state can't selectively choose which organizations can provide medical services.

"Our argument is that Medicaid is quite clear. You can regulate providers based on fraud, competence and what have you, but what the state has said is we can regulate for all these other reasons," he said. "This is the reason we are choosing to regulate now, and that violates a specific provision of the Medicaid act, and that is freedom of choice."

Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher stressed that the state has a duty to taxpayers to ensure the Legislature's wishes are honored.

"Our Legislature decided that to preserve the integrity of our taxpayer dollars in Medicaid, it did not want facilities that perform abortions to receive Medicaid dollars," he said. "In that circumstance, those taxpayer dollars effectively subsidize the abortion. That's why they passed this law, and that's why we're here defending it."

Judge Diane Sykes hinted at her thoughts on the case during her questioning.

"The fact that Planned Parenthood performs abortions doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the medical process," she said. "It's not akin to fraud. . . . The problem I have with the state's interpretation of the phrase 'qualified' is that it's infinitely elastic. It can mean anything the state wants it to mean."

The court panel took the case under advisement after the 45 minutes of arguments, before turning to other cases that included another Hoosier lawsuit.

In Bryan Brown v. Dr. Elizabeth Bowman, Terry Harrel, et al., No. 11-2164, from the Northern District of Indiana, the three-judge appellate panel analyzed the case of an Allen County man who’s suing the state because he was denied the chance to take the bar exam here after an evaluation by the JLAP that screened him out. Brown alleges it was because of his religious beliefs.

In March, Judge Theresa Springmann dismissed Brown’s case and found that precedent prevents her as a federal judge from addressing what was a state-court action prohibiting his admission. She relied on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine that involves two rulings from the Supreme Court of the United States in 1923 and 1983, which together hold District courts lack jurisdiction over lawsuits from state-court losers and that any jurisdiction remains solely with the nation’s highest court. In Brown’s case, the SCOTUS has already denied his petition for writ of certiorari.

Now, Brown is asking the 7th Circuit to overturn Springmann’s ruling and find the Rooker-Feldman doctrine doesn’t apply to his case. Brown raises questions about the scope of the doctrine and the reach of expert witness immunity, based on his contentions that defendants in this case weren’t properly sworn in under oath and therefore are prevented from being dubbed “witnesses” as required by the state.

The state’s attorney told the panel that Brown was given full due process when the Indiana Supreme Court reviewed his bar application and denied it and the issue cannot now be reviewed because these claims were already heard in the judicial process at the state level.

Brown represented himself before the 7th Circuit, asking the panel to overturn the ruling and adopt the rationale spelled out in a past dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens calling for a scaling back of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

The judges asked few questions during the 15-minute argument, and both sides were mostly able to spell out the arguments they’d made in their previously filed briefs.

“This is built on the idea that I’d seen an evil eye and uneven hand in the way I was processed,” Brown said. “I was treated in a way in which shouldn’t be done in America.”


  • Appreciate the coverage
    I will post my oral argument at later in the weekend. Briefing available there. My case is one documenting political correctness on steriods. Ideology should not matter in bar application cases -- but it very much did in mine.

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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.