Wisconsin's Voter-ID Case Provides a Lesson in Interim Relief

WI_statehouse1

In recent weeks, several high-profile cases involving Wisconsin public policy have come before the Seventh Circuit. In many instances, these cases have provided not only insights on the federal judicial system for the general public, but also reminders for appellate practitioners of the nature of judicial powers.

Last Friday offered another example. The Seventh Circuit in Frank v. Walker, stayed the permanent injunction of Wisconsin’s voter-ID law (Act 23), which the Eastern District of Wisconsin had issued back in April. The appellate panel, composed of Judges Easterbrook, Sykes, and Tinder, took the step just hours after it heard oral argument in the consolidated cases weighing the law’s validity under the Voting Rights Act and under the Constitution.

Continue reading this entry

Wisconsin Supreme Court 2013-2014 Term Summary Part 1: By the Numbers

WI_statehouse2

This post is the first in a series of posts analyzing the 2013-14 term of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

* * * * *

Last week the court heard the first oral arguments for its 2014-15 term. Now that this new term has arrived, we will spend some time over the next few weeks in a series of posts reviewing what the court did last term.

Continue reading this entry

Judge Easterbrook on Appellate Review: There Are No "Writs of Erasure"

easterbrook

Judge Easterbrook provided a fundamental and valuable lesson on appellate review during today’s oral argument in O’Keefe v. Chisholm, a series of consolidated appeals that concern the John Doe investigation brought by Milwaukee’s elected (and Democratic) district attorney into the fundraising efforts of Wisconsin’s Governor (Republican) Scott Walker.

The exchange occurred during the oral argument presented by counsel for the district attorney and for certain members of the district attorney’s staff. As appellants in this case, they sought to overturn an injunction entered earlier by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. That injunction halted the John Doe proceeding and ordered the destruction of all records collected by investigators, and, in the process of entering the order, the district court was critical in its opinion of the district attorney’s efforts.

What the appellants asked for, however, turned out to be a bit too much. The exchange is below.

Continue reading this entry

Blackstone and Booze: Wisconsin Court of Appeals Discusses Retroactivity of Judicial Decisions

SirWilliamBlackstone21

On August 26, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals released Mixx Night Club v. Milwaukee, 13AP2599, an opinion analyzing the retroactivity of Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions.

The case began with a rowdy nightclub in Milwaukee. The City of Milwaukee “non-renewed” Mixx Nightclub’s Class B tavern license, after “numerous disturbances” at Mixx in 2011 and 2012. Mixx sought review of the Common Council’s decision in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Relying on a recent Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision, Nowell v. Wausau, 2012 WI App 100, 344 Wis. 2d 269, 823 N.W.2d 373 (Nowell I), Judge Sankovitz conducted a de novo trial and vacated the Milwaukee Common Council’s non-renewal decision. The City appealed.

Continue reading this entry

7th Circuit Defines "Worthless Services" Under the False Claims Act

gavel_scales

“Services that are ‘worth less’ are not ‘worthless.’”

* * * * *

That’s the upshot from U.S. ex rel. Absher v. Momence Meadows Nursing Center, Nos. 13-1886 & 13-1936 (Aug. 20, 2014), a recent decision from the Seventh Circuit (authored by Judge Manion) that addressed the worthless-services theory of liability under the False Claims Act.

The worthless-services theory is the idea that a qui tam relator could prove a violation of the False Claims Act if the defendant was reimbursed for products or services that had a value equal to zero. To obtain reimbursement for providing something truly worthless would seem to be the essence of a “false claim.” The theory has been adopted by the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits. But it hasn’t been adopted by the Seventh Circuit, though the court considered it at length in Absher. Ultimately it was Absher‘s facts that caused the Seventh Circuit to stop short.

Continue reading this entry