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In tossing discrimination case, 7th Circuit confronts state immunity claims

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An Indiana Department of Health lab worker’s claim that he was fired because of his age, race or gender was rightly rejected by the District Court, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Judges on the panel also used the occasion to point to “the elephant in the room” - the state’s sovereign immunity claim in a case removed from state court. District Judge Jane Magnus Stinson also granted summary judgment for the defense on that basis in Paul Hester v. Indiana State Department of Health, 12-3207.

“We agree with the district court that Hester’s evidence could not support a finding that the Department’s action was motivated by race or gender,” Circuit Judge Diane Wood wrote for the unanimous panel. Hester, a white man in his 50s, had twice been passed over for promotions, including once by a much younger female colleague.

But Wood wrote that Hester’s employer had documented ample evidence of performance-related cause for termination and discipline. “Hester has provided no reason for suspecting that these negative assessments were pretextual.”

Wood wrote that the court was affirming on that basis because it was straight-forward, but the ruling dodged sovereign immunity questions that she noted have divided circuits around the nation.

“These cases raise a number of interesting questions: is it correct to distinguish between immunity from suit and immunity from a forum? May a state court, consistently with Testa v. Katt, 330 U.S. 386 (1947), refuse to entertain a case based on federal law when the state has an analogous statute that differs only in the remedies afforded? Are the rules different when the state freely chooses the federal forum by removing? What if the state not only removes, but it files a counterclaim?” Wood wrote.

“To the extent that Hester might have been seeking injunctive relief, did the district court act too hastily in assuming that Indiana’s sovereign immunity would also bar that aspect of his case, despite Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)?

“Rather than plunge into those delicate topics in a case where the answers ultimately do not matter, we are content to save them for another day,” Wood wrote.
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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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