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Court doesn't order contempt sanctions on state

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was presented with the question in an Indiana case of how much non-compliance of a consent decree involving Medicaid applications is needed before a District Court can impose civil contempt sanctions. The issue is before the 7th Circuit because plaintiffs believed Indiana's Medicaid program administrators violated a portion of a consent decree in the handling of applications for the disability program.

The case, LaMont G. Bailey, et al. v. E. Mitchell Roob, Jr., et al., No. 08-3592, has been before the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, off and on since 1994 when the plaintiffs and the program administrators agreed to certain terms for the handling of disability applications. Part of the agreement stated the program would compile a complete 12-month medical history before reaching a decision on the application, but it didn't define "complete." The plaintiffs claimed the program violated the decree by relying on summary forms rather than compiling an applicant's complete medical history; they filed a petition to hold the administrators in contempt in 2006.

The District Court determined that only nine of the 26 sample files introduced by administrators were less than complete than others presented and that five contained only a summary form 251A that physicians complete but no medical records. The District Court didn't find administrators in contempt because the plaintiffs didn't meet the burden for a civil contempt petition and invited them to re-file their motion with more information, but the plaintiffs instead appealed to the 7th Circuit.

The 7th Circuit ruled the District Court didn't commit a clear legal error by requiring the plaintiffs to demonstrate Indiana Medicaid's lack of reasonable diligence because the Circuit's caselaw requires the party seeking sanctions to demonstrate that the opposing party is in violation of a court order by clear and convincing evidence. Also, there must be evidence a party willfully refused to comply with a court order or wasn't "reasonably diligent" in carrying out the terms of the order, wrote Judge Joel M. Flaum.

On the issue how much non-compliance is needed to impose civil contempt sanctions, the 7th Circuit concluded the District Court didn't abuse its discretion by ruling the plaintiffs hadn't produced clear and convincing evidence of the state's violation of the court order. Due to the inconclusive nature by the parties as to what makes a "complete" medical history, the District Court couldn't make any factual findings about whether or not they were incompliance with the consent decree. In addition, the plaintiffs cited caselaw outside the civil contempt context by using cases seeking injunctive or equitable relief. Based on the lack of evidence, sanctions aren't warranted, Judge Flaum wrote.

Finally, on the issue of whether the District Court erred by not interpreting "complete medical history" as always requiring copies of a treating physician's records, Judge Flaum wrote, "Based on this record we are not prepared to hold categorically that an agency can never use a summary form when developing that record or that the absence of any document from a physician within the last twelve months, whatever its relevance, is a violation of the regulations."

The 7th Circuit's ruling doesn't foreclose all future claims on this issue from the plaintiffs, and the District Court did indicate it would be willing to hear future claims with a greater fact-finding on the meaning of "complete medical history," he wrote.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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