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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. Such things are no more elections than those in the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

  2. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  3. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  4. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  5. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

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