Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana is a municipal corporation that operates a major hospital and other facilities, including a health center operated in partnership with Citizens Health to serve the medically under-served population in Indianapolis. The health center was funded in part by a Section 330 Grant, awarded by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Section 330 grants fund qualifying health centers that provide primary health care services to medically under-served populations, 42 U.S.C. 254b. A In 2012, Health and Hospital decided to terminate the partnership with Citizens and relinquish the federal grant, which still had several years of funding remaining. Citizens sued Health and Hospital, HRS, and others in an effort to retain the grant funds. The district court granted defendants summary judgment, concluding that Citizens had no contractual, statutory, or constitutionally cognizable interest in the grant. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that Health and Hospital was the grantee; Citizens had no constitutionally-protected entitlement to the grant; and the terms of the contract between Health and Hospital and Citizens clear; there was no obligation to renew. View "Citizens Health Corp. v. Sebelius" on Justia Law

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In 2009 the Fire Protection District passed an ordinance under which it took over fire alarm monitoring for all commercial properties in the District. Private alarm companies that had previously provided that service sued, alleging interference with their business, illegal monopoly, violations of constitutional rights, and exceeding statutory powers. Before the district court issued an opinion on remand, the District repealed the 2009 ordinance. Under a new ordinance, the District would not own any transmitters and would permit property owners to contract with private companies for alarm transmission, monitoring, and equipment; signals would still be transmitted via the District’s network to the District’s receiver. The district court entered a modified permanent injunction, requiring the District to permit alarm companies to receive and transmit signals directly from property alarm boards, independently of the District. The injunction barred the District from requiring that fire signals be sent to its station, charging residents for fire protection services, or selling or leasing fire alarm system equipment. It required the District to allow alarm companies to use any technology equivalent to wireless transmission and compliant with the NFPA code, to adopt the most current version of the NFPA code, and to refund fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as modified. The new injunction sets appropriate boundaries and does not contravene the earlier decision in most ways. The court struck provisions requiring refunds to subscribers and requiring the District to adopt the most current versions of the NFPA code. View "ADT Sec. Servs., Inc. v. Chicago Metro. Fire Prevention Co." on Justia Law

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Clark, the owner and president of an East St. Louis Illinois company, was charged with making false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(3). Clark’s company had entered into a hauling services subcontract with Gateway, general contractor on a federally funded highway project in St. Louis, Missouri. Employers must pay laborers working on certain federally-funded projects the “prevailing wage,” calculated by the Secretary of Labor based on wages earned by corresponding classes of workers employed on projects of similar character in a given area, and maintain payroll records demonstrating prevailing wage compliance, 40 U.S.C. 3142(b) The indictment charged that Clark submitted false payroll records and a false affidavit to Gateway, representing that his employees were paid $35 per hour, when they actually received $13-$14 per hour. The district court dismissed for improper venue, finding that when a false document is filed under a statute that makes the filing a condition precedent to federal jurisdiction, venue is proper only in the district where the document was filed for final agency action. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Although the effects of the alleged wrongdoing may be felt more strongly in Missouri than in Illinois, the Southern District of Illinois is a proper venue. View "United States v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Blackout performs asphalt paving work and other construction services and had contracts with the Chicago Transit Authority that were terminable at will. The CTA informed Blackout that it would not do business with the firm for the next year (debarment) and did not give a reason. Illinois law allows judicial review of debarment by public bodies, but Blackout did not avail itself of that process, nor did it sue for libel, although it insists that public announcement of debarment is defamatory, but filed suit in federal court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming deprivation of “occupational liberty” without due process. The district court dismissed, noting that that inability to work for a single employer is not deprivation of occupational liberty and that there was no allegation of inability to work for public or private entities other than the CTA. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Blackout won a school district contract after the CTA debarment. View "Blackout Sealcoating, Inc. v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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McDonough is an engineering firm that frequently does design jobs for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The Illinois Procurement Code provides that, absent required signatures, a contract of the type in dispute is not valid and not an enforceable debt, 30 ILCS 500/20-80(d). McDonough claimed that IDOT owed it $2 million for additional work on three projects, none of which had a supplemental agreement that was fully executed. McDonough claimed that it continued working without the agreements because it was IDOT’s normal business practice always to sign an agreement after a prior approval letter was sent. Based on findings that McDonough had made accounting errors that called its business integrity into question, the chief procurement officer suspended McDonough’s status as a “prequalified vendor” automatically eligible to bid on IDOT projects. McDonough claimed that refusal to sign the agreements deprived it of property interests in the debts without due process of law. Faced with threats, of bankruptcy, the district court entered a temporary restraining order, effectively ordering state officials to pay. The Seventh Circuit vacated, finding that the suit is, in substance, an effort to have a federal court order state officials to make payments from the state treasury to remedy alleged breaches of contract and is prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment. View "McDonough Assocs., Inc. v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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The pro se plaintiff filed a qui tam suit against the university and nine chemistry professors, charging that they defrauded the United States in violation of several federal statutes by obtaining federal grant money on the basis of plagiarized research papers. He does not allege that the fraud harmed him, but apparently sought a “bounty,” 37 U.S.C. 3730(d)(1-2). The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that to maintain a suit on behalf of the government, a qui tam plaintiff has to be either a licensed lawyer or represented by a lawyer. Georgakis is neither and cannot maintain the suit in his individual capacity because he does not claim to have been injured. View "Georgakis v. IL State Univ." on Justia Law

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ITT is a for-profit institution with more than 140 locations and offers post-secondary education. Leveski, who worked at the ITT campus, alleged, under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730(b) that ITT knowingly submitted false claims to the Department of Education to receive funds from federal student financial assistance programs under the Higher Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1001. The district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, finding that the allegations had already been publicly disclosed and that Leveski was not the original source of the allegations. The court granted sanctions of $394,998.33 against Leveski's lawyers. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding the allegations that ITT paid illegal incentive compensation throughout Leveski’s employment as a recruiter and financial aid assistant, sufficiently distinct from prior public disclosures to give the court jurisdiction. The court noted the lack of temporal overlap with allegations by other ITT employees and Leveski’s more detailed allegations. View "Timothy J. Matusheski v. ITT Educational Services, Inc" on Justia Law

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The 1987 Public Utilities Act, 220 ILCS 5/8-403.1, was intended to encourage development of power plants that convert solid waste to electricity. Local electric utilities were required to enter into 10-year agreements to purchase power from such plants designated as “qualified” by the Illinois Commerce Commission, at a rate exceeding that established by federal law. The state compensated electric utilities with a tax credit. A qualified facility was obliged to reimburse the state for tax credits its customers had claimed after it had repaid all of its capital costs for development and implementation. Many qualified facilities failed before they repaid their capital costs, so that Illinois never got its tax credit money back. The Act was amended in 2006, to establish a moratorium on new Qualified Facilities, provide additional grounds for disqualifying facilities from the subsidy, and expand the conditions that trigger a facility’s liability to repay electric utilities’ tax credits. The district court held that the amendment cannot be applied retroactively. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The amendment does not clearly indicate that the new repayment conditions apply to monies received prior to the amendment and must be construed prospectively. View "Illinois v. Chiplease, Inc." on Justia Law

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Natale,a vascular surgeon, was compensated by Medicare for repairing a patient’s aortic aneurysm. Another doctor reviewed the post-surgical CT scan, which did not match the procedure Natale described in his operative reports. After an investigation, Natale was indicted for health care fraud related to his Medicare billing, mail fraud, and false statements related to health care. A jury acquitted Natale on the fraud counts but convicted him of making false statements, 18 U.S.C. 1035. The trial court used jury instructions that seemingly permitted conviction for false statements completely unrelated to Medicare reimbursement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding the error harmless, but clarified that under the statute, even conviction for false statements made in connection with items or services still must relate to a “matter involving a health care benefit program.” View "United States v. Natale" on Justia Law

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After a 2008 Indiana flood, the President authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide disaster relief under the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121–5207. Columbus Regional Hospital was awarded approximately $70 million, but suit under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346, 1349, claiming that it was entitled to about $20 million more. The district judge granted FEMA summary judgment. In response to the Seventh Circuit’s questioning of subject-matter jurisdiction, the Hospital argued that the Court of Federal Claims was the right forum and requested transfer. FEMA argued that the district court had jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit agreed with FEMA, holding that the suit was not for “money damages.” The Hospital wants money, but not as compensation for FEMA’s failure to perform some other obligation, but as “the very thing to which [it] was entitled” under the disaster-relief program. The court noted that only the district court can serve as a forum for all of the Hospital’s legal theories, then rejected all of those theories. View "Columbus Reg'l Hosp. v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency" on Justia Law