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Friday, June 20, 2014

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

In Fares Pawn, LLC v. Ind. Dept. Financial Inst. (SD Ind., Young), an 18-page opinion, Judge Flaum writes:

Indiana businesses that engage in pawnbroking activity must get a license from the state’s Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). The plaintiff in this case, William Saalwaechter, owns Fares Pawn LLC, a pawn shop in Evansville, Indiana. He applied for a license in March 2009, but DFI denied his application, citing concerns about previous pawnbroking on the property and about his store manager’s criminal history. Saalwaechter brought an administrative action challenging the denial. He eventually received a license after he signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to comply with certain conditions, in particular not employing the worrisome manager.

Saalwaechter is convinced that the license-application process should have gone much more smoothly than it did. After getting his license, he sued DFI in federal court for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Saalwaechter did not contend that DFI treated him unfavorably on account of some identifiable characteristic, such as age, sex, or race. He simply argued that the state had singled him out for disparate treatment without a rational basis. This is a so-called “class-of-one” theory, which rests on the premise that “[w]hen those who appear similarly situated are nevertheless treated differently, the Equal Protection Clause requires at least a rational reason for the difference, to ensure that all persons subject to legislation or regulation are indeed being treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions.” Engquist v. Oregon Dep’t of Agriculture, 553 U.S. 591, 602 (2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that no reasonable jury could conclude that DFI treated Saalwaechter differently from similarly situated applicants without a rational reason. We agree, and therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 20, 2014 11:02 AM
Posted to Ind Fed D.Ct. Decisions