Damages Are Permitted Against Government Officials Under The Religious Freedom Restoration Act Of 1993
Fact and Procedure: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) was enacted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, to provide a remedy to redress federal government violations to the right of the free exercise of religion clause under the First Amendment. Respondents, are practicing Muslims who sued under RFRA, claiming that federal agents placed them on the No Fly List for refusing to act as informants against their religious communities. They sought injunctive relief against the agents in their official capacities and monetary damages against the agents in their individual capacities. The District Court found that RFRA does not permit monetary relief and dismissed their individual-capacity claims. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that RFRA’s remedies provision encompassed money damages against Government officials. The United States Supreme Court granted cert to decide whether or not RFRA’s remedies encompassed money damages against federal officials in their individual capacities.
Analysis: The Government argued that lawsuits against them in their official, not personal, capacities should be limited because a lawsuit seeking damages from employees in their individual capacities, is not really “against a government” because relief “can be executed only against the official’s personal assets.”
Applying rules of statutory construction, Justice Thomas, writing for a unanimous court (except for Justice Barrett who did not participate) held that RFRA allowed monetary damages against federal government officials in their individual capacities. RFRA’s text provides that persons may sue and “obtain appropriate relief against a government,” including an “official (or other person acting under color of law) of the United States.” RFRA supplants the ordinary meaning of “government” with a different, express definition that includes “official[s].” It then underscores that “official[s]” are “person[s].” Under RFRA’s definition, relief that can be executed against an “official . . . of the Unites States” is “relief against a government.” This reading is confirmed by RFRA’s use of the phrase “persons acting under color of law,” which has long been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 42 U. S. C. §1983 (Civil Rights Act) context to permit suits against officials in their individual capacities.
RFRA’s term “appropriate relief” is “open-ended” on its face making what relief is “ ‘appropriate’, ” “inherently context dependent.” In the framework of suits against Government officials, damages have long been awarded as appropriate relief. The Court considered that the availability of damages under §1983 was particularly important because when Congress first enacted RFRA, the definition of “government” included state and local officials. In order to reinstate the pre-Smith substantive protections of the First Amendment and the right to vindicate those protections the remedy provision must have encompassed at least the same forms of relief authorized by §1983, namely monetary damages. Because damages claims have always been available under §1983 for clearly established violations of the First Amendment, that means RFRA provides a right to seek damages against Government employee. The Court in a footnote made it clear that the actions against federal officials in their individual capacity could be tempered by the application of qualified immunity. Tanzin v. Tanvir, (19-71, 12/10/20)
Comment Howard: Expansion of The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 increases the likelihood that we will see many more RFRA lawsuits. Qualified immunity will provide some protection but since these decisions are usually made at the highest level of government this opinion will put officials under the gun when making these decisions, which can at times be very unpopular. Consider the recent news story about the issuance of a conditional use permit to a church that professed white nationalism, which was an unpopular decision although required under the law. The upside is that this may help local government attorney’s getting public officials to abide by the law when they realize there is potential personal liability.
Inverse Condemnation Claim Is Not Barred By Failure To Timely Appeal Contested Case Because It Is Separate Cause Of Action
Introduction: Metro Fill Development v. St. Charles County, is a case full of nuggets for the local government law practitioner. The opinion discusses whether or not an appeal from the circuit court of a contested case within 30 days from the final decision of a contested case is a bar to the inverse condemnation claim. In addition, were rights vested by filing an application for a conditional use permit, thereby allowing the use of procedures that were in place at the time of the application?
Facts and Procedure : On June 21, 2017, Metro Fill filed an application for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) with St. Charles County (County) to establish a trash transfer site on property it already owned (“the Property”). The Property was zoned as a Solid Waste Disposal District under County Code Section 405.180, which allowed the establishment of a trash transfer site after obtaining a CUP. Prior to the November 17, 2017 administrative hearing and the Commission’s recommendation, but after Metro Fill submitted its application, St. Charles County established new procedures for all CUP’s, pursuant to Ordinance 17-072, which outlined specific administrative review procedures for all CUP applications, and revised the section governing CUPs to provide that all CUP applications are governed by the new procedures outlined in Ordinance 17-072, which was effective on August 4, 2017.
In November 2017, staff for the County Planning and Zoning Commission (“the Commission”) issued a recommendation that Metro Fill’s CUP application be denied. After a public hearing, the Commission recommended denial of the CUP application. Following the Commission’s recommendation, the County Council scheduled an administrative hearing on Metro Fill’s CUP application.
The administrative hearing on Metro Fill’s CUP application was held on February 28, 2018, which followed the procedures set forth in Ordinance 17-072. Following the hearing, the County Council adopted findings of fact and conclusions of law unanimously denying Metro Fill’s CUP application. Metro Fill was informed of this denial by certified mail sent on May 22, 2018. Metro Fill then sought review of this decision in circuit court under the Missouri Administrative Procedures Act (“MAPA”). For the purposes of this opinion, the Eastern District assumed without deciding that Metro Fill’s CUP application was completed on June 21, 2017, and was therefore pending on the effective date of Ordinance 17-072.
On November 20, 2018, Metro Fill filed its petition for review of the County Council’s denial of its CUP application in circuit court under MAPA. The County filed a motion to dismiss Metro Fill’s petition, arguing that Metro Fill’s petition was untimely because it was filed outside the thirty-day window established by MAPA for contested-case review. In addition, the County argued that Metro Fill could not bring a claim for inverse condemnation because MAPA provided the exclusive remedy from the County Council’s decision; and, further, Metro Fill failed to state a claim for inverse condemnation. The trial court granted Respondents’ motion to dismiss, determining that Count II warranted dismissal because the CUP decision was a contested case under MAPA and Metro Fill’s petition was not timely filed, resulting in a lack of jurisdiction. Further, the trial court determined Count I warranted dismissal because Metro Fill failed to state a claim for inverse condemnation and, further, that Metro Fill was precluded from advancing an inverse condemnation claim because it had failed to comply with the exclusive procedures for review under MAPA. Metro Fill then appealed to the Eastern District.
Statutory Authority Versus Jurisdiction – First, the Court addressed the question of jurisdiction. The Court noted that the trial court improperly characterized the dismissal of Count II, the administrative appeal of Metro Fill’s petition, as “lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” The Court noted that the Missouri Supreme previously held in 2018 that failure to file a petition for review under MAPA was a “lack of statutory authority,” not jurisdiction, because the statute limits the reviewing courts authority to review the administrative decision. Despite this mischaracterization by the trial court the Eastern District held that the dismissal of Count II was proper since a challenge to a court’s lack of statutory authority can be challenged by asserting an affirmative defense in a motion to dismiss.
Administrative Review – The county council acts as an administrative agency when considering the issuance of a CUP under Ordinance 17-072, and therefore its decision is reviewable under MAPA. MAPA outlines two distinct procedures for circuit court review of an administrative proceeding, each with different filing requirements and review processes: those for contested cases (Sections 536.100 to 536.140) and those for non-contested cases (Section 536.150). The Court began its analysis of this issue by noting that a contested case is “a proceeding before an agency in which legal rights, duties or privileges of specific parties are required by law to be determined after hearing” and are reviewable under Section 536.014(4), which provides that a petition to review the administrative decision in circuit court must be filed within 30 days from the notice of the decision is given.
Metro Fill argued that the hearing before the Commission was not a contested case, however the rules for a CUP adopted by Ordinance 17-1702, provided for a public hearing at which time the parties could present their evidence in accordance with procedures in the Ordinance. A contested case is “a proceeding before an agency in which legal rights, duties or privileges of specific parties are required by law to be determined after hearing.” In this case, the Court held that the Commission decided the legal rights, duties or privileges of Metro Fill’s application for a CUP, after a hearing. Metro Fill argued that what happened at the hearing did not conform to the ordinance; therefore, it was not a contested case. The Court responded:
“The operative inquiry in determining whether an administrative proceeding should be characterized as a contested or a non-contested case is “not of what transpired at the administrative proceeding, but what the law requires for that proceeding”
Vested Rights – To counter the conclusion that the CUP application was a contested case, Metro Fill argued that the procedures in the ordinance that preceded Ordinance 17-1702 controlled its application because its rights were vested at the time it filed for a CUP, which was prior to the adoption Ordinance 17-1702. The Court noted that Ordinance 17-1702 was procedural and not substantive; therefore it did not violate the Missouri Constitution, which prohibits retrospective laws. “Prohibited retrospective operation occurs if the law takes away or impairs vested or substantial rights acquired under existing laws, or if it imposes new obligations, duties, or disabilities with respect to past transactions.”
All the mechanisms addressed in Ordinance 17-1702, were procedural, including the process for how an application moves between the Commission and the County Council, which notice requirements apply, and the specific hearing procedures including evidence to be presented, witness testimony, and the roles of the parties. The Court concluded that Ordinance 17-1702 were procedural in nature; therefore, no rights were vested because case law is clear that the filing of the application for the CUP does not vest rights.
“it is well-settled in Missouri law that submission of an application for permit under a prior zoning ordinance—indeed, even the issuance of a permit under a prior zoning ordinance—is not enough to establish a vested right to the continued application of the prior zoning ordinance”
Inverse Condemnation Claim – Count I of Metro Fill’s petition alleged a claim for inverse condemnation contending that the County Council’s denial of Metro Fill’s application for a CUP constituted a compensable taking. The County argued that the exclusive remedy for the denial of Metro Fill’s CUP was available through contested-case review under MAPA and, given that Metro Fill failed to seek this review Metro Fill was unable to maintain an inverse condemnation claim. The trial court agreed and found that it “lack[ed] the jurisdiction to entertain Metro Fill’s inverse condemnation claim because of their failure to comply with the statutory provisions of MAPA, foreclosed them from collaterally attacking the County Council’s decision.
The Western District held that a claim for inverse condemnation under Article I, Section 26 of the Missouri Constitution is not a collateral attack on an administrative decision and is a wholly separate cause of action requesting wholly separate relief from that of a claim for review under MAPA. The Eastern District noted that case law has clearly decided that “…a takings claim may be maintained independent of a challenge to an administrative decision under the designated review procedures.”
“An inverse condemnation claim is not a collateral attack on an administrative decision because, by nature, it assumes the administrative decision will stand and does not challenge such decision as invalid, other than a failure to provide just compensation. An inverse condemnation claim does not ask the trial court to review whether the CUP should have been granted. Instead, a takings claim assumes that the denial of the CUP will remain in place, that Metro Fill will be unable to utilize the Property as a trash transfer site as it wished, and that Metro Fill should be justly compensated for this deprivation.” Metro Fill v. St. Charles County, (ED108533, 11/24/20)
Comment Howard: Congratulations to the County for revising its ordinance, under these difficult circumstances. In my experience, it is pretty common for the procedural aspects of a conditional use permit to be pretty skimpy leaving the governmental agency very little discretion when deciding whether or not to issue a conditional use permit. You may want to look at the procedures in your local ordinance before facing a potential catastrophe. The opinion in this case is well written and very useful dealing with important basics of municipal law.
Definition Of Workplace Violence – “True Threat”
Introduction: In this day and age workplace violence is a major concern. Seems like there is a lot of anger, which can bleed over into the workplace. Threats of violence in the workplace come in many forms and should be dealt with immediately in order to tamp down this activity, which can create fear and adversely affect the workplace. Diggs v. City of St. Louis, provides an excellent backdrop in which to examine when a threat is a ”true threat” and actionable, making the person who made the threat subject to disciplinary action.
Facts and Procedure: Diggs worked for the City of St. Louis Department of Public Safety, Division of Corrections, as a Correctional Shift Supervisor at the Medium Security Institution (MSI). Diggs had worked for the Division of Corrections for 28 years, 24 of those as a supervisor. On July 26, 2017, Diggs contacted Commissioner Dale Glass (Glass) by phone with concerns about his pay being docked after having taken medical leave. At the time of the phone call, Diggs was sitting in the parking lot at MSI. Glass testified that during the course of their conversation, Diggs became angry and said to Glass, “what if I come and shoot up the place,” referring to MSI. Glass testified that he was alarmed by Diggs’ statement, both because Diggs had access to weapons at MSI as Shift Supervisor, and because Glass was ultimately responsible for the safety of the approximately 150 to 175 staff and 600 inmates at MSI. Glass ended the conversation and immediately called the police. Glass also contacted Superintendent Jeffrey Carson (Carson) and directed him to place Diggs on forced leave.
Carson contacted Major Tonya Harry (Harry) and told her to escort Diggs from the premises, where Diggs had by then reported to work. Harry found Diggs in the briefing room. As she escorted him out, she asked him what had happened. Diggs responded that he had had a conversation with Glass, and he had said “what if I blow up the place,” to which Glass responded by asking if Diggs was making a threat. Harry testified Diggs told her that he was not making a threat, he was “just saying what if.” Harry testified that Diggs was upset because he had filed complaints about being harassed by Carson and no one had addressed his complaints.
Glass created an incident report following the phone call, and he referred it to Superintendent Adrian Barnes (Barnes). Barnes conducted a pre- disciplinary hearing of Diggs. Diggs was notified of the hearing, and he had an opportunity to review the evidence against him prior to the hearing. Diggs attended the hearing with his attorney. Barnes considered Glass’ incident report as well as Diggs’ prior work history and records of past disciplinary incidents, including two 15-day suspensions and two written reprimands. After the hearing, Barnes recommended termination of Diggs’ employment.
Diggs appealed to the Commission, which upheld the termination of Diggs’ employment based on a violation of Regulation 142, which prohibits City of St. Louis (City) employees from “using violence or threats of violence against any person in the workplace . . . .” The Commission made findings that Glass, Barnes, and Harry were credible witnesses “and worthy of belief.” The Commission also found that Diggs’ testimony “was not credible and was unworthy of belief.” Diggs appealed the Commission’s decision to the circuit court, which affirmed. An appeal followed to the Eastern District.
Definition of True Threat – Administrative Regulation 142 prohibits “verbal threats of violence.” The Court noted that this Regulation must be read in light of free speech clause of the First Amendment. In addressing this issue the United States Supreme Court had held that the right of free speech must involve “true threats, which “…encompass those statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.” Furthermore, the speaker need not actually intend to carry out the threat.” Restrictions on true threats are not aimed solely at preventing violence, but “protect[ing] individuals from the fear of violence and from the disruption that fear engenders,” as well as “from the possibility that the threatened violence will occur.”
The Court explained that in determining if a threat is a “true threat” it must consider the context in which the maker of the threat communicates it. Diggs argued that his words took the form of an information-seeking, open-ended question, and therefore was not a threat toward anyone in particular. The Court disagreed noting that it is not the grammatical structure of the words, but their substance. In this case, Diggs was sitting outside his workplace and suggested to his superior, with whom he already had grievances, that he would go inside and “shoot up the place.” Posing it as a hypothetical does not make it less threatening. Diggs was upset at the time he made the statement and was prone to be excitable and was already extremely upset that his earlier grievances had not been addressed. The Court explained that it is not the intent of the speaker to carry out the threat, but the statement itself. The Commission found that Diggs was not credible and the witnesses that testified against Diggs were credible; therefore, there was competent and substantial evidence in the record to uphold the decision to dismiss Diggs.
Liberty Interest Hearing – Diggs argued that the pre-termination hearing or “liberty interest” hearing did not provide him with sufficient notice, a fair hearing, opportunity to review the evidence against him, or opportunity to defend against such evidence, violating his right of due process. This argument completely misstates the purpose of a pre-termination hearing, which is to provide the employee “oral or written notice of the charges against him [or her], an explanation of the employer’s evidence, and an opportunity to present his [or her] side of the story before taking action, citing Loudermill.” This procedure may be informal and does not have to provide the employee with all of the evidence. It is simply intended to give the employee an opportunity to provide his or her side of the story before taking formal action. Diggs v. City of St. Louis, (ED108521, 11/24/20)
Comment Howard: This case does an excellent job of explaining the factors to be considered in determining if a threat is threat is a “true threat.” In my mind, based on this case, the courts will go a long way in supporting actions by employers when a threat is made. Jokes should not be tolerated. If the employer ignores the threat and something happens the employer will be blamed.
Federal District Court Finds That Missouri Law That Prohibited The Formation Of A PAC 60 Days Prior To An Election Violated Free Speech Clause
Facts and Procedure: The Missouri Constitution provides that a continuing committee “shall be formed no later than sixty days prior to the election for which the committee receives contributions or makes expenditures. This deadline is also found in Missouri Revised Statute § 130.011(10). A number of groups wanted to make expenditures in the August 2020 primary elections in Missouri by forming a political action Committee (PAC).
Missouri law provides that: Contributions or expenditures in violation of the formation deadline is an “infraction,” and a purposeful violation is a misdemeanor. Civil penalties and fines may also be levied.
In addition, entities accused of violating the formation deadline may also be subjected to “public reprobation.” Furthermore, non-compliance with the law hinders their ability to raise donations.
Plaintiffs filed a Section 1983 action in federal district court for the Western District, alleging that their desired expenditures were prohibited by the 60-day waiting periods under Missouri law and that they could be charged with unlawfully making expenditures in violation of Missouri law.
Analysis: The First Amendment, applicable to states through the Fourteenth Amendment, “protects political association as well as political expression,” which includes the “right to participate in democracy through political contributions.” “Independent expenditures are indisputably political speech, and any restrictions on those expenditures strike at the core of our electoral process and of the First Amendment freedoms.” “Laws that burden political speech are subject to strict scrutiny[.]” To withstand strict scrutiny, the government must “prove that the restriction furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.”
The district court ruled that the 60 day prohibition, limiting the formation of a PAC, was unconstitutional, because it failed to pass strict scrutiny, violating the First Amendment Free Speech Clause. The Court, relied on Klahr, an earlier 8th Circuit case, that had a 30 day limitation, which was unconstitutional.
Here, the Court finds that the formation deadline in this case is materially indistinguishable from the statute struck down in Klahr. Indeed, the 60-day deadline in this case is even more burdensome than the 30-day deadline in Klahr. Make Liberty Win v.,Zeilger
In Klahr the 8th circuit held that the 30 day waiting period was not narrowly tailored.
Comment Howard: The narrowly tailored provision of the strict scrutiny test is very hard to meet. The State of Missouri, after losing Klahr, totally failed to understand what the 8th Cir. was saying in Klahr. Seems like the State made the restriction even more restrictive and its best hope for narrow tailoring would have been to make the limitation shorter like 15 days. I think it is almost impossible to pass the strict scrutiny test.
Starting January 1, 2021 In St. Louis County Municipalities Will Have To Limit Their Revenues From Municipal Courts To Less Than 12.5 Of Local Revenues.
Just a remainder that as of January 1, 2021, in St. Louis County, the municipalities will have to limit their revenues from municipal courts to less than 12.5 of local revenues. This was the result of an earlier 2019 Missouri Supreme Court opinion that changed the law with respect to the test to determine if legislation is special legislation to a rational basis instead of “substantial justification.”
Cole County Circuit Court judge Beetem than held that SB 5 was constitutional noting that differentiating St. Louis County was rationale because it has some 90 separate municipalities and 81 municipal courts providing a rational basis for SB 5. After all, the legislature could have rationally concluded that this type of fragmented government exists only in St. Louis County, providing unique structural incentives for municipal court revenue. City of Normandy et al. v. Parson, 15AC-CC00531-0.
No Damages – No Standing If ADA Barriers Were Removed
Plaintiff who failed to show that he would visit defendants’ gas station in the immediate future but for architectural barriers did not have standing to pursue an ADA claim because there was no basis to find imminent injury. Dalton v. Simonson, 8th (19-3642, 12/2/20)
No Relief For Restaurants From Order Limiting Indoor Dining
A St. louis circuit court judge recently denied a request for a TRO to block a County Order prohibiting indoor dining for a period of four weeks. The Association alleged that the County Executive’s Order did not have the force of law until the County Council approved the Order. The Restaurant Association then appealed to the Eastern District requesting a writ of mandamus, which was denied. Missouri Restaurant Association v. Lasater, (ED109312 12/10/20)
Missouri Restaurant Association v. St. Louis, (20SL-CC056653).
Special Taxing Districts Can Not Delegate Authority To Private Parties
Missouri Lawyers Weekly recently reported a circuit court case where the court held that private groups cannot run Ozarks taxing districts. The lawsuit stems from a lodging tax imposed on local lodging districts, which uses about 1.7 million dollars in revenue per year from the lodging tax to promote Lake of the Ozarks tourism. Senior Judge Deborah Daniels, appointed to hear the case, when local judges disqualified themselves, required that the taxing districts and the lodging association comply with the statue. Apparently, the parties no longer take issue with the order and are in the process of changing the operation to comply with the statute. Griswold v. Miller County, (20ML-CC00023 and Salamun v. Camden County, 20CM-CC00106)
Transfer Of District Files Containing Confidential Student Information To Teachers Personal Goggle Account Did Not Violate Law
Facts and Procedure: Ferry was a tenured teacher with the Jefferson City School District (“District”), employed as an instructional technology coordinator. On or about January 28, 2019, Ferry transferred thousands of District files to her personal Google account. Over one thousand of the files transferred contained confidential student information.
The District placed Ferry on paid administrative leave pending further investigation, during which the District required her to return certain electronic devices to the District, and forbid her from communicating with other District employees and entering upon District property. The Board issued a Statement of Charges seeking to terminate Ferry’s employment. Ferry was charged with willful or persistent violation of the published regulations of the Board by (1) transferring files which contained confidential student information to her personal Google account in violation of the disclosure prohibition in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
After a hearing, the Board issued its findings of facts and conclusions of law, and decision (“Decision”). The Board terminated Ferry’s employment on the ground that she willfully and persistently violated FERPA and Board policy by disclosing confidential student information to herself when she transferred District files to her personal Google account. Ferry requested judicial review. The circuit court reversed the Board’s decision finding that there was no disclosure, as the term is defined by FERPA and Board policy, when Ferry transferred the data to her own Google account. The circuit court further found, “The Board impermissibly expands the definition of “disclosure” beyond the bounds of the agency definition, and beyond reason. . . .” The real issue under the law is not where the information is stored by an authorized user of confidential student data. The issue is the disclosure of the information to an unauthorized third parties.” Ferry was ordered to be reinstated. The Board appealed to the Western District.
Analysis: The sole question facing the Western District was whether or not the Board erred in terminating her for violating FERPA and Board policy by making an unlawful disclosure to herself. The Court first addressed this question under the statute as a disclosure issue.
FERPA defines “disclosure” as: [T]o permit access to the release, transfer, or other communication of personally identifiable information contained in education records by any means, including oral, written, or electronic means, to any party, except the party identified as the party that provided or created the record. 34 C.F.R. § 99.3 (emphasis added).
The Court concluded that FERPA clearly and unambiguously defines disclosure as a communication to a party other than the providing/creating party. Therefore, the definition requires two parties, a providing/creating party and a receiving party. The providing/creating party is expressly excluded from simultaneously qualifying as a receiving party by FERPA’s definition. Likewise, the District’s own training materials on FERPA provide that FERPA is a law that protects the confidentiality of student records from “third parties.”
The facts in this case were undisputed in that Ferry did not transfer any file to a third party; therefore, the Board erred in dismissing Ferry and the circuit court’s judgment in reversing the Board is affirmed. Ferry v. The Board of Education of the Jefferson City School District, (WD83649, 12/15/20.)
Comment Howard: Seems like copying and storing school records offsite on your own personal Goggle account is something that needs to be addressed as part of a school district policy.
The Shadow Docket Of The United States Supreme Court And COVID 19 Cases
The Shadow Docket of the United States Supreme Court has blossomed into a major repository for emergency requests for relief from COVID 19 cases, providing a quick and easy way to locate COVID 19 cases. I thought the recent article posted on the SCOTUS blog was a great snap shot of what is happening with pandemic cases. It is well worth the short read.
On Going Violation Of Due Process
The November 23, 2020 Edition of Missouri Lawyers Weekly (also covered in this news story) had an article about changes to the Missouri parole process based upon an Order issued by U. S. District Judge Bough of the Western District to the Missouri Division of Probation and Parole based upon due process violations of the 14th Amendment. It is an important time to make sure your revocation procedures comply with the due process requirements of the 14th since this case will call attention to violations. Among the issues addressed the court orders the corrections department to ensure that eligible parolees have an attorney; requires improvements to the screening process; requires the department to provide evidence at least five days before revocation hearings; and requires it to provide parolees with written notification of its revocation decisions. Gasca v. MDOC, (2:17-cv-04149-SRB, 11/12/20).