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7th Circuit: taxpayer suit for restitution is moot

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's dismissal of a taxpayer suit against the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education as moot, finding the taxpayers didn't have standing to sue for violations of the Establishment Clause based on a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reheard the case of Joan Laskowski and Daniel M. Cook v. Margaret Spellings, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Education and University of Notre Dame, No. 05-2749.

The Supreme Court had remanded the case to the 7th Circuit for further consideration in light of Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation Inc., 551 U.S. 127 S. Ct. 2553 (2007).

Joan Laskowski and Daniel Cook, as taxpayers, sued the secretary of education to enjoin the payment of a congressional one-time grant to the University of Notre Dame designated for a teacher-training program aimed at putting teachers in underserved Catholic schools in poor neighborhoods. Laskowski and Cook failed to seek a preliminary injunction; while the suit was pending, the grant expired and the District Court dismissed the suit as moot.

The 7th Circuit originally reversed the dismissal, finding the suit wasn't moot because restitution relief could be obtained against the University of Notre Dame in the form of an order to repay the grant to the U.S. Treasury.

The Supreme Court ruled in Hein that taxpayers continue to have standing to sue for alleged Establishment Clause violations brought by specific congressional appropriations, but the standing only extends to suits to enjoin the violation. The exception noted in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968), doesn't extend to suits for retrospective monetary relief against private parties as was the remedy first envisioned by the 7th Circuit against University of Notre Dame, wrote Judge Diane Sykes.

"Accordingly, we read Hein to mean that taxpayers continue to have standing to sue for injunctive relief against specific congressional appropriations alleged to violate the Establishment Clause, but that is all," the judge wrote. "The only form of relief the taxpayers here had standing to seek - an injunction against the Secretary's disbursement of the allegedly unconstitutional grant - is no longer available because the grant was not a continuing one and it expired while the suit was pending in the district court."

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  1. It is amazing how selectively courts can read cases and how two very similar factpatterns can result in quite different renderings. I cited this very same argument in Brown v. Bowman, lost. I guess it is panel, panel, panel when one is on appeal. Sad thing is, I had Sykes. Same argument, she went the opposite. Her Rooker-Feldman jurisprudence is now decidedly unintelligible.

  2. November, 2014, I was charged with OWI/Endangering a person. I was not given a Breathalyzer test and the arresting officer did not believe that alcohol was in any way involved. I was self-overmedicated with prescription medications. I was taken to local hospital for blood draw to be sent to State Tox Lab. My attorney gave me a cookie-cutter plea which amounts to an ALCOHOL-related charge. Totally unacceptable!! HOW can I get my TOX report from the state lab???

  3. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  4. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  5. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

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