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Monday, October 06, 2014

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today. Also decides Wis. cases re voter ID

In Robert Lodholtz v. Granite State Insurance Company (SD Ind., Lozano), a 7-page opinion, Judge Posner writes:

Before us is a petition filed under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) for permission to appeal from an order by the district court on the ground that though not the final order in the litigation it resolved a “controlling question of law” incorrectly, and that correction will expedite the resolu-tion of the entire litigation—in fact end it. See Ahrenholz v. Board of Trustees of University of Illinois, 219 F.3d 674, 675–76 (7th Cir. 2000). We grant the petition, and since the papers filed by the parties cover the merits adequately, we can pro-ceed to the decision of the appeal. * * *

The question for us therefore is whether a federal court can ignore a state court judgment on the ground that the state court misconceived its jurisdiction over the case, and thus whether it is open to Granite State to try to prove in its federal case that Lodholtz really was an employee of Pulliam and therefore the state courts had no jurisdiction of his suit against Pulliam. * * *

One might have thought that because the Indiana courts denied Granite State’s motion to intervene, the insurance company never had a chance to argue absence of jurisdiction as a party to the litigation. As we know, that is not true; we know that Granite State made the argument—indeed the ar-gument was the entire premise of its refusal to cover Lod-holtz’s liability to Pulliam. Had Granite State been willing to relinquish its reservation of rights, its motion to intervene would have been granted. It was not willing; and in assert-ing a reservation of rights it was trying to undermine the In-diana law that gives the insured the right to manage its own defense when the insurer reserves the right to deny cover-age.

The Supreme Court of the United States is the only federal court with appellate authority over state courts; that is the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983). But even the Supreme would have had no authority over the Indiana courts in Lodholtz v. Pulliam because no issue of federal law was involved in that litigation. Granite State has struck out. The jurisdictional issue on which its federal suit is based was resolved against it by the Indiana courts, and there is no ground for a collateral attack by another judicial system on that determination.

The judgment is reversed and Granite State’s suit dismissed.

The consolidated Wisconsin cases are Ruthelle Frank v. Scott Walker and League of United Latin America v. David Deininger. Judge Easterbrook writes the 23-page majority opinion, joined by J. Tinder and J. Sykes. The ruling begins:
Since 2005 Indiana has required voters to present photographic identification at the polls. The Supreme Court held that this statute is compatible with the Constitution. Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008). In May 2011 Wisconsin enacted a similar statute, 2011 Wis. Act 23. A district court held that Act 23 is unconstitutional and enjoined its implementation. Frank v. Walker, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59344 (E.D. Wis. Apr. 29, 2014), stay denied, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111811 (E.D. Wis. Aug. 13, 2014). After receiving briefs and argument, we stayed that injunction. Order issued Sept. 12, 2014; reconsid eration denied Sept. 26, 2014; opinions issued Sept. 30, 2014. We now reverse the injunction, because the district court’s findings do not justify an outcome different from Crawford.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 6, 2014 06:34 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions