SCOTUS denies case between Indiana agencies on 11th Amendment

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The Supreme Court of the United States won’t take an Indiana case which delved into whether the 11th Amendment prohibits an independent state agency from suing a traditional state agency in federal court.

Justices on the nation’s highest court issued an order list Monday denying a writ of certiorari in the case of Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services v. Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, et al., No. 08-3183, a case involving the state’s practices and programs regarding mentally ill inmates and what access exists to information on inmates.

The Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services had sued the state in late 2006 in order to gain access to records on a mentally disabled adult patient who’d died while at LaRue Carter Memorial Hospital to find out if she had been an abuse victim. U.S. Judge Larry McKinney decided the defendants had to hand over the records because the victim was an adult and her parents weren’t appointed as legal guardians, but the FSSA argued that releasing the records would violate the victim’s parents’ privacy.

A three-judge appellate panel for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, but in April 2010 the appellate court en banc reversed that panel ruling on the grounds that the 11th Amendment doesn’t bar the plaintiff IPAS from suing the FSSA. Specifically, the ruling found that the federal Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act of 1986 allows that – as well as peer review of records relating to treatment within that facility. Circuit Judge David F. Hamilton authored the majority en banc opinion that held the litigation could proceed, though Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook disagreed and wrote a dissent saying he’d dismiss and let the administrative process play out.

The SCOTUS ruled April 19 on a similar issue about the 11th Amendment out of Virginia – that a federal court can hear a lawsuit for prospective relief against state officials brought by another agency of the same state. The case was Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart, No. 09-529.


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