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Court: Suit doesn't belong in federal court

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In a ruling that could impact pending litigation involving Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decided the agency doesn't have standing to bring suits in federal court.

Just last week, U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton of the Southern District of Indiana held in a separate suit brought by IPAS against the Indiana Department of Correction that IPAS could sue in federal court because it's independent of the governor and is funded by the federal government under the Protection and Advocacy of Mentally Ill Individuals Act (PAIMI).

But in Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services v. Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, et al., No. 089-3183, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decided today IPAS would have to file its suit in state court. IPAS sued FSSA, LaRue Carter Memorial Hospital, and several state officials in order to gain records on a mentally disabled adult patient who died while at LaRue Carter to find out if she was a victim of abuse. The District Court held the defendants had to hand over the records because the victim was an adult and her parents weren't appointed her legal guardians. FSSA argued releasing the records would violate the victim's parents' privacy.

Instead of ruling on the issue of whether the records should have been released, the Circuit judges examined whether IPAS even had standing to sue in federal court. The federal statutes that created systems like IPAS to investigate abuse and neglect of people with mental illness don't give them an express right of action, wrote Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook. Also, Indiana hasn't enacted legislation or promulgated regulations giving IPAS the powers listed in 42 U.S.C Sections 10805 and 10806.

IPAS also can't pursue a federal suit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, because it's a state actor and not a person for purposes of the statute.

"Indiana might have established its 'system' as a private entity, the way legal services corporations are organized," wrote the chief judge. "But because Advocacy Services is a public agency rather than a private corporation or foundation, it cannot use Section1983 and must sue in state rather than federal court."

The federal appellate court also ruled the 11th Amendment bars the suit in federal court. Chief Judge Easterbrook likened the instant case to Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board v. College Savings Bank, 527 U.S. 627 (1999), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held the 11th Amendment blocks enforcement of patent claims against states and their agencies.

"We do not see any reason why patent holders should be turned away on grounds of sovereign immunity while other demands concerning information in state hands would be unaffected by that doctrine," he wrote.

The 7th Circuit vacated the District Court's judgment and remanded with instructions to dismiss for want of jurisdiction. It also noted some future decisions will need to tackle the problems that arise when a "system" established as a private organization sues in federal court to obtain information from a private medical provider or when it sues its home state in state court.

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  1. Im very happy for you, getting ready to go down that dirt road myself, and im praying for the same outcome, because it IS sometimes in the childs best interest to have visitation with grandparents. Thanks for sharing, needed to hear some positive posts for once.

  2. Been there 4 months with 1 paycheck what can i do

  3. our hoa has not communicated any thing that takes place in their "executive meetings" not executive session. They make decisions in these meetings, do not have an agenda, do not notify association memebers and do not keep general meetings minutes. They do not communicate info of any kind to the member, except annual meeting, nobody attends or votes because they think the board is self serving. They keep a deposit fee from club house rental for inspection after someone uses it, there is no inspection I know becausee I rented it, they did not disclose to members that board memebers would be keeping this money, I know it is only 10 dollars but still it is not their money, they hire from within the board for paid positions, no advertising and no request for bids from anyone else, I atteended last annual meeting, went into executive session to elect officers in that session the president brought up the motion to give the secretary a raise of course they all agreed they hired her in, then the minutes stated that a diffeerent board member motioned to give this raise. This board is very clickish and has done things anyway they pleased for over 5 years, what recourse to members have to make changes in the boards conduct

  4. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  5. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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