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Friday, August 09, 2013

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In PAUL HESTER v. INDIANA STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (SD Ind., Magnus-Stinson), a 16-page opinion, Judge Wood writes:

Until mid-2009, Paul Hester was employed by the Indiana State Department of Health (the Department). The Department was not satisfied with Hester’s work, however, and so it terminated his employment. Hester believes that this action was motivated by his gender, race, or age. Initially, he sued the Department in Indiana state court, alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e17, but the Department removed the action to federal court. The district court granted summary judgment for the Department on all claims. It concluded that Indiana was immune from liability for private damages under the ADEA, and it found that Hester had failed to identify enough evidence to permit a trier of fact to find that the Department discharged Hester because of a protected characteristic.

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. Hester conceded at oral argument in this court that the record contains no more evidence of age discrimination than of race or gender bias. His age-based claim has thus dropped out of the case. This means that we have no occasion to delve into the interesting questions of sovereign immunity that have occupied the parties in their briefing, although we outline them briefly. * * *

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? 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.

We AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 9, 2013 01:38 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions