Milchtein v. Chisholm, No. 17-1420 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The Milchteins have 15 children. The two eldest refused to return home in 2011-2012 and were placed in foster care by Wisconsin state court orders. In federal court, the Milchteins argued that state officials violated the federal Constitution by either discriminating against or failing to accommodate their views of family management in the Chabad understanding of Orthodox Judaism. Those children now are adults. State proceedings with respect to them are closed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Milchteins’ suit as moot, rejecting arguments the district court could have entered a declaratory judgment because the Milchteins still have 12 minor children, who might precipitate the same sort of controversy. The Milchteins did not seek alteration of the state court judgment, so the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not block this suit but it is blocked by the requirement of justiciability. The Milchteins want a federal judge to say where a state judge erred but not act on that error: “a naked request for an advisory opinion.” If Wisconsin again starts judicial proceedings concerning the Milchteins’ children, the "Younger" doctrine would require the federal tribunal to abstain. Younger abstention may be inappropriate if the very existence of state proceedings violated the First Amendment but the Milchteins do not contend that it is never permissible for a state to inquire into the welfare of a religious leader’s children.