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. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

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  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise