« Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 4 Aug. 29th (and 12 NFP) | Main | Ind. Decisions - Upcoming oral arguments this week and next »

Monday, September 01, 2014

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides three Indiana cases Aug. 29th

In U.S. v. Gonzalez, et al (ND Ind., Lozano), a 14-page opinion, Judge Bauer writes:

Our circuit is familiar with appeals from convicted gang members of the Almighty Latin Kings Nation. This appeal is a consolidation of four cases of former Latin Kings gang members who were indicted, prosecuted, and sentenced in the Northern District of Indiana. The indictment included twenty-three defendants: one defendant went to trial, twenty-one pleaded guilty, and one was never apprehended. The group was part of a major drug trafficking ring and linked to nineteen homicides. After the twenty-two convictions, four defendants filed appeals. * * *

We AFFIRM Anaya’s sentence in part and REMAND for the LIMITED PURPOSE of correcting the Judgment. We DISMISS the appeals of Gonzalez, Bernal, and Reyes. Accordingly, we GRANT the motions filed by counsel for Gonzalez and Bernal.

In Druco Restaurants v. Steak N Shake (SD Ind., McKinney), a 16-page opinion, Judge Rovner writes:
At issue in this appeal is whether a franchisor may compel several of its franchisees to engage in nonbinding arbitration of diversity claims that the franchisees brought in federal court. The district court refused to stay the franchisees’ lawsuits and declined to compel arbitration. We affirm. * * *

The district court correctly denied Steak n Shake’s motions to stay the pending litigation and to compel arbitration. Because we conclude that the district court was correct in finding that the arbitration clauses are illusory and unenforceable under Indiana law, we need not address whether the disputes were within the scope of the arbitration agreements or whether nonbinding arbitration fits within the definition of arbitration under the FAA.

In Scrogham v. Colvin (SD Ind., Pratt), a 34-page opinion, Judge Ripple writes:
Kenneth Owen Scrogham applied for disability benefits under the Social Security Act, submitting that a variety of medical conditions—including degenerative discs, spinal stenosis, sleep apnea, hypertension, arthritis, atrial fibrillation and restless leg syndrome—constituted a qualifying disability. After his application was denied, Mr. Scrogham participated in a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) for the Social Security Administration (“Administration”). The ALJ denied Mr. Scrogham’s application for benefits, and the Administration’s Appeals Council denied his request for review. Accordingly, Mr. Scrogham filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, seeking judicial review of the ALJ’s decision. The district court affirmed the denial of benefits, holding that the ALJ did not err in giving less weight to the opinion of a treating physician than to the opinions of nontreating physicians, that the ALJ permissibly found Mr. Scrogham not to be credible and that the ALJ’s decision otherwise was supported by substantial evidence. Mr. Scrogham timely appealed.

We now reverse the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings. In our view, the ALJ’s methodology was flawed in several respects. The ALJ impermissibly ignored a line of evidence demonstrating the progressive nature of Mr. Scrogham’s degenerative disc disease and arthritis. As a result, the ALJ inappropriately undervalued the opinions of Mr. Scrogham’s treating physicians, whose longitudinal view of Mr. Scrogham’s ailments should have factored prominently into the ALJ’s assessment of his disability status. Second, even if we confined our review of the record to the snapshots of evidence that the ALJ considered, we do not think that this limited evidence builds the required logical bridge to her conclusions. Specifically, the ALJ seems to have misapprehended or at least to have considered only partially some of the evidence about Mr. Scrogham’s daily activities, rehabilitation efforts and physicians’ evaluations. This lapse affected both the ALJ’s credibility determination and her residual functional capacity assessment. Because the ALJ’s opinion reflects a flawed evaluation of the record evidence, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

ILB: Re the disability opinion above, see also this post from Aug. 21st, headed "Posner opinion takes aim at denial of disability benefits; is it a 7th Circuit trend?"

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 1, 2014 03:44 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions