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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues