McCarthy v. Fuller, US 7th Cir (4/10/13)
Constitutional Law, Contracts, Non-Profit Organizations
In 1956, Sister Ephrem of the Most Precious Blood, experienced apparitions of the Virgin Mary, during which, Sister Ephrem claimed, she was told: “I am Our Lady of America.” The Archbishop supported a program of devotions to Our Lady of America. In 1965 Pope Paul VI approved creation of a cloister, which lasted until at least 1977, when surviving members left and formed a new congregation, dedicated to devotions to Our Lady of America. Sister Ephrem directed it until her death in 2000. Sister Therese succeeded Sister Ephrem, who willed to Sister Theres all her property, mostly purchased with donated money. Sister Therese worked with McCarthy, a lawyer, and Langsenkamp until 2007, when Langsenkamp and McCarthy established the Langsenkamp Family Apostolate in the chapel in which the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to Sister Ephrem. They sued Sister Therese, claiming theft of physical and intellectual property, fraud, and defamation. She counterclaimed alleging theft of a statue and of the website and defamation by calling her a “fake nun.” The district court denied McCarthy’s motion that the court take notice of the Holy See’s rulings on Sister Therese’s status in the Church. The Seventh Circuit reversed, with “a reminder” that courts may not decide (or to allow juries to decide) religious questions. Determination of the ownership of the property is likely possible without resolving religious questions.
United States v. Grigsby, US 6th Cir. (4/11/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Grigsby, a middle-age man who lived in homeless shelters, was charged with three unarmed bank robberies, 18 U.S.C. 2113(a). Psychologists conducted examinations and filed reports that diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia and stated that Grigsby was not competent to stand trial. Neither party objected. The court committed Grigsby to custody (18 U.S.C. 4241(d)(1)) to determine whether he could be restored to competency to stand trial. Forensic evaluators concluded that Grigsby did not understand the seriousness of his legal difficulty; lacked ability to assist his lawyer during trial; and was not capable of waiving his constitutional rights rationally or of testifying on his own behalf. Grigsby refused to take oral medication. Because he was not gravely disabled and did not present a danger to himself, others, or the facility, he did not meet the criteria for involuntary medication. The evaluators requested an order authorizing them to inject Grigsby involuntarily with a first-generation antipsychotic drug, (haloperidol (Haldol) or fluphenazine), or a second-generation antipsychotic drug, risperidone, to restore competency. These medications can cause serious side effects. The district court granted an order under Sell v. U.S. (2003). The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that special circumstances unique to the case indicate that Grigsby’s liberty interest in avoiding involuntary medication outweighs the government’s interest in prosecution.
Krieger v. Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp., US 7th Cir. (4/10/13)
Bankruptcy, Education Law
Krieger, age 53, cannot pay her debts. She lives with her mother in a rural community; they have only monthly income from governmental programs. She is too poor to move and her car, more than 10 years old, needs repairs. She lacks Internet access. In her bankruptcy proceeding, Educational Credit moved to exempt her student loans from discharge; 11 U.S.C.523(a)(8) excludes educational loans “unless excepting such debt from discharge under this paragraph would impose an undue hardship on the debtor.” The district court reversed the bankruptcy court, noting that Krieger, although unable to pay even $1 per year, had not enrolled in a program that offered a 25-year payment schedule. The Seventh Circuit reversed, in favor of Krieger. “Undue hardship” requires showing that the debtor cannot maintain a minimal standard of living if forced to repay; that additional circumstances exist indicating that this situation is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period; and that the debtor has made good faith efforts to repay. The court noted that Krieger incurred the debt to obtain paralegal training at a community college, has made about 200 applications in 10 years, and used a substantial part of her divorce settlement to pay off as much of the educational loan as possible. Continue reading →