U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

ADA Petitioner Who Admitted Trolling With Lawyer Gets Vindication

An ADA plaintiff who sued the Minnesota Department of Health had a dismissal of his case affirmed against him after the appellate court first gave him hope by ruling that the lower court should have heard his case instead of dismissing it.

However, it would later toss out his due process claims. Can't win them all.

Eric Wong and Paul Hansmeier

Eric Wong is a man born with a debilitating disease that causes him great pain almost every time he moves. Mr. Wong set up a non-profit with controversial Minnesota lawyer Paul Hansmeier called the Disability Support Alliance which gained notoriety for essentially driving around town looking for alleged ADA and other federal disability violations with the intent to demand settlements. Mr. Wong admitted to as much in a deposition (Hansmeier is currently under investigation by the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board).

Rooker-Feldman and Timeliness

At the district level, Wong encountered trouble when the court determined that he had actually been dilatory and untimely in his initial filing of court documents. Additionally, the lower court also determined that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applied to bar outright the federal court review of the Minnesota DH decision to deny Wong's "shelter needy" benefits.

Supplemental Jurisdiction

The circuit disagreed with the lower court's analysis and held that Wong had timely filed his documents and that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine didn't apply at all. Additionally, the lower district court's conclusion that it could not have exercised supplemental jurisdiction over the state-agency matter was not really the point so much as the court should have.

Under the Supreme Court case of Chicago v. International Colleges of Surgeons, SCOTUS ruled that a court may reach a decision not to employ supplemental jurisdiction over a state-law matter only after considering in detail all the elements of sec. 1367 of the Federal Rules of Civ. Procedure or after making a finding that abstention should apply. Since the lower court did not do that, Wong's appeal was not only timely, but his complaint certainly did arise out of the "same facts" as his federal claims, meaning that the lower court would have to assess his claims on the merits.

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