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Appeals court: Federal judge should decide on state law claims

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has sent a case back to an Indianapolis judge, saying she didn’t properly weigh whether the case should be prolonged on remand to Hamilton Superior Court instead of her deciding on the issues that have already been fleshed out in federal court during the past year and a half.

In a non-precedential order issued Aug. 12, a 7th Circuit panel sent the case Brooke N. Taflinger v. United States Swimming Inc. and Westfield Washington School Corp., No. 1:09-CV-00771, back to U.S. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the Southern District of Indiana for her to reconsider.

The case involves elite swimmer Brooke Taflinger, who competed at Indiana University and the University of Florida and qualified for the Olympic trials in both 2000 and 2004. After graduating from high school, she swam for Westfield Area Swimmers that later became Central Indiana Aquatics, a club team that coach Brian Hindson had founded in 1998. Hindson recruited Taflinger to swim for his team. His program was organized under the non-profit U.S. Swimming comprised of thousands of coaches and swimmers nationwide, and through that program Taflinger received a swimming scholarship from the University of Florida.

But unbeknownst to her, Hindson had placed a video camera in a padlocked locker to secretly tape Taflinger and other teenage girls that he coached while they were changing in locker rooms.

That didn’t come to light until 2008, when the F.B.I. received a report that a computer belonging to Hindson that sold on eBay contained pornographic images. An investigation led to the coach pleading guilty to 11 counts of child pornography production. He’s currently serving a 33-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Marianna, Fla. with lifetime supervision post-release.

But after all that criminal activity transpired, Taflinger in 2009 sued in Hamilton Superior Court. She alleged that U.S Swimming and the Westfield-Washington School Corp., which allowed Hindson access to locker rooms, failed to take measures to protect swimmers from his criminal behavior. The case was removed to federal court.

In January, Judge Pratt dismissed the federal claims in the suit – ruling that the Fourth Amendment didn’t apply to individuals such as Hindson, who wasn’t acting as a school official in his coaching capacity; and that Westfield-Washington Schools can’t be held liable because Hindson’s team wasn’t a part of the school district’s educational activities and Taflinger didn’t sufficiently prove the school knew of Hindson’s activity, or couldn’t have been expected to know.

On the state law claims – general negligence, breach of contract, negligent infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and negligent supervision – Judge Pratt remanded those to Hamilton Superior Court for further consideration, since all the federal claims had been dismissed. She cited the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction in factors outlined in Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 (1988), that weighed in favor of her remanding those remaining state law claims rather than addressing them in federal court where the case had been for more than a year.

Both U.S. Swimming and the high school appealed, and the appellate court consolidated those actions into Taflinger v. U.S. Swimming, et. al., Nos. 11-1296 and 11-1412.

The federal panel pointed out that District courts must make a “considered determination” as to whether it should retain or remand state claims, something that Judge Pratt didn’t appear to do in this case. She cited the Carnegie-Mellon factors of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity, but didn’t provide any analysis of how those factors influenced her decision.

“Although generally a district court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims that were not thoroughly developed in the course of resolving federal claims, we have recognized that the interest of judicial economy compels a court to retain jurisdiction over state claims when substantial resources already have been committed to deciding them, or when there is no doubt about how those claims should be decided,” the appellate panel wrote.

Nineteen months have lapsed since the case was removed to federal court, with discovery and a full record being litigated on all claims – including the state claims, the panel wrote. Judge Pratt also evaluated and dismissed two of Taflinger’s state claims against U.S. Swimming, and even Taflinger concedes that the remaining state claims that are ready to be decided would prolong the case even more if remanded.

Judge Pratt’s order remanding the state claims is vacated, and the case is remanded to the federal court for further proceedings.

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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