Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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An officer stopped a car for expired license plates. Barry, the driver, did not have registration papers, and professed not to know who owned the car or where he was going. Fadiga, the passenger, replied that “a friend” owned the car and produced a rental agreement. The car’s return was past due; the agreement did not authorize either man to drive the car. When Fadiga opened his wallet to extract his driver’s license, the officer saw multiple plastic cards and sought permission to search the car; both consented. The officer found a bag full of gift cards and requested a card reader. About 30 minutes later the reader arrived and detected that the cards had been tampered with. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Fadiga’s conviction for possession of unauthorized “access devices,” 18 U.S.C. 1029(a)(3), upholding denial of a motion to suppress. The delay between the call and the reader’s arrival was justified by reasonable suspicion that the men possessed doctored gift cards. The court noted that neither man was authorized to drive the car; even without waiting for a reader, the police were entitled to detain them. The court also rejected a discrimination claim. The venire from which the jury was selected comprised 48 persons, none of them black. Defense counsel did not show discrimination in the venire's selection under 28 U.S.C. 1861. View "United States v. Fadiga" on Justia Law

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Ashton, a transgender high school senior, requested to use the boys’ restroom while at school. The Kenosha School District denied the request, indicating that Ashton’s mere presence would invade the privacy rights of his male classmates. In his suit under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act and the Equal Protection Clause, Ashton sought preliminary injunctive relief, asserting that his attempts to avoid using the bathroom exacerbated his vasovagal syncope, which renders Ashton susceptible to fainting or seizures if dehydrated, and that the situation caused him educational and emotional harm, including suicidal ideations. The district court denied a motion to dismiss and granted a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit upheld the injunction. Ashton sufficiently demonstrated a likelihood of success on his Title IX claim under a sex‐stereotyping theory. Because the policy’s classification is based upon sex, he also demonstrated that heightened scrutiny, and not rational basis, should apply to his Equal Protection Claim. The District has not provided a genuine and exceedingly persuasive justification for the classification nor any evidence of how the preliminary injunction will harm it, or any students or parents. Harms identified by the District are all speculative, whereas the harms to Ashton are well‐documented. View "Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Illinois inmate Davis sued prison officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983, asking the court to recruit counsel. He stated that he had tried to secure counsel, referring to a letter from a law firm corroborating his efforts; no letter was attached. The district court screened Davis’s complaint, 28 U.S.C. 1915A, and allowed him to proceed on his excessive-force claim against one guard, but dismissed a conspiracy claim against others on the ground that Davis had no federal constitutional right to a grievance procedure. The court denied Davis’s motion for counsel, stating that he failed to demonstrate that he made a reasonable attempt to obtain counsel. Davis failed to respond to interrogatories and repeatedly renewed his request for recruitment of counsel, stating that he was unable to aid the inmate who was preparing his filings, reads at a 6th-grade level, and has a “paranoid delusional disorder.” He attached his “legal mail card,” which cataloged his incoming and outgoing mail to law firms. The court ultimately dismissed the case and denied Davis’s subsequent motions. The Seventh Circuit recruited counsel and reversed. The interrogatories that Davis failed to answer were above his comprehension. Davis did not have a fair opportunity to prosecute his case, given his severe intellectual handicaps, his apparently diligent efforts, his potentially meritorious claim, and “the irregularities" of the court’s handling of the case. View "Davis v. Moroney" on Justia Law

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In 1984, Ben-Yisrayl was convicted in Indiana state court of capital murder, rape, criminal confinement, and burglary. The case bounced back and forth for many years in the state courts as the death sentence and other issues were litigated on direct review and in postconviction proceedings, eventually resulting in a 60-year sentence on the murder conviction. In the meantime, Ben-Yisrayl pursued habeas relief in federal court under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Because he had not completed state post-conviction review, the district judge stayed the proceedings. When the state courts finally finished with the case, the judge lifted the stay and ordered the state to respond to the petition. Indiana did so. Ben-Yisrayl failed to file his reply within the allotted time, so the case proceeded to decision without a reply brief from him. The judge denied relief on all grounds without an evidentiary hearing and denied Ben-Yisrayl’s motion to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Ben-Yisrael had waived his only argument on appeal: that his resentencing counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to introduce “a veritable mountain of mitigation evidence.” View "Ben-Yisrayl v. Neal" on Justia Law

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Radford boarded a train in Flagstaff, to deliver heroin to Toledo. The train stopped in Galesburg. Officer Mings, who goes to the station daily to study passengers, noted indicators of drug trafficking. Radford had purchased a one-way ticket two days earlier, paying a premium for a roomette, and was traveling between locations associated with illegal drugs. Radford had been arrested seven years earlier for assisting undocumented aliens and for possessing marijuana. Mings, in uniform, knocked on Radford’s door and stated that he was doing “security checks” for ”illegal narcotics.” Radford answered Ming’s questions. He asked to search her luggage. Radford responded, “I guess so. You’re just doing your job.” He never advised Radford that she could refuse his requests. The search revealed heroin. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of her motion to suppress, finding that the encounter was consensual, not a seizure, and that Radford voluntarily consented to the search. Even with no basis for suspecting a particular individual, officers may pose questions, request identification, and request consent to search—"provided they do not induce cooperation by coercive means.” No seizure occurs if “a reasonable person would feel free to … terminate the encounter.” Rejecting claims of intimidation, the court noted Mings did not enter Radford’s roomette before her consent, told her why he wanted to search, and did not threaten Radford; there cannot be a rule that an "officer is forbidden to speak to a person of another race.” View "United States v. Radford" on Justia Law

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Wheeler pleaded guilty to an attempt to commit Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a)), and to discharging a gun during that crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(iii). The plea did not reserve any issue for appeal. The court sentenced him to 108 months for the Hobbs Act offense and the required consecutive 120 months for the firearms offense. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Wheeler’s argument that attempted robbery is not a “crime of violence” because an attempt to rob a retail establishment does not have the use of physical force as an element and the residual clause is unconstitutionally vague. Whether attempted Hobbs Act robbery satisfies the elements clause in section 924(c) is a statutory issue; an unconditional guilty plea waives any contention that an indictment fails to state an offense. The court also rejected Wheeler’s argument that he should be resentenced in light of a 2017 Supreme Court holding that 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(D)(ii), which requires a sentence under section 924(c) to run consecutively to the sentence for the offense in which the firearm was used, does not forbid the court to choose a term of imprisonment for the predicate offense so that the aggregate imprisonment comports with 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing criteria. View "United States v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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Appeal of dismissal of challenge to city’s order requiring that police officers cover tattoos was rendered moot by city’s revocation of the order. Plaintiffs, military veterans employed as Chicago police officers, have tattoos relating to their military service and religion. The department issued an order without prior notice, requiring all officers on duty or otherwise “representing” the department to cover their tattoos. The announced reason was to “promote uniformity and professionalism.” Plaintiffs complained that covering their tattoos with clothing caused overheating in warm weather and that cover-up tape irritated their skin. The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that the order violated theirs’ First Amendment rights, attorneys’ fees and costs, and “other legal and/or equitable relief.” Without addressing class certification and before discovery, the court dismissed the suit on the merits, finding that wearing tattoos was a “personal expression,” not an effort at communicating with the public on matters of public concern, and was not protected by the First Amendment. Meanwhile, the police union filed a grievance. An arbitrator ruled that the order violated the collective bargaining agreement. The city conceded and agreed to reimburse officers for expenses in complying with the invalidated policy. The Seventh Circuit directed that the judgment vacated as moot. View "Medici v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Seventh Circuit finds that 10 years of prison segregation raised serious constitutional concerns. In 1989, Isby was incarcerated for robbery resulting in serious bodily injury. Months later, Isby hit a prison counselor. Officers gassed Isby and entered his cell. During the altercation, a dog was killed, and Isby stabbed two officers. Isby was convicted of attempted murder and battery, and sentenced to an additional 40 years. Isby was moved among Indiana prisons and received several major‐conduct reports. Since October 2006, Isby has been in long‐term segregation. He filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, citing the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause. Unaware that Isby had accumulated three “strikes” for filing frivolous suits or appeals and was restricted under the Prison Litigation Reform Act from seeking pauper status, 28 U.S.C. 1915(g), the court granted Isby’s request to proceed in forma pauperis, but rejected his claims, and allowed him to appeal as a pauper. The Seventh Circuit declined to dismiss the appeal, affirmed with respect to the Eighth Amendment claim, and remanded for further proceedings on Isby’s due process claim. The court noted serious constitutional concerns: the “repeated issuance of the same uninformative language (without any updates or explanation of why continued placement is necessary) and the length of Isby’s confinement, could cause a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that Isby has been deprived” of liberty without due process. View "Isby v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Seventh Circuit upholds award of attorneys’ fees to some plaintiffs and of costs to some defendants in civil rights case. Ghidotti, an employee of Reliable Recovery, attempted to repossess a car from Baker’s step‐daughter. Ghidotti called 911, falsely stating that Baker had threatened him. Police arrived, arrested Baker, and charged him with possession of shotgun with an expired registration. Baker attended nine court hearings before the charges were dropped. Baker and family members sued Chicago, eight named police officers, unknown officers, two private citizens, and Reliable Recovery, alleging civil rights violations and state law tort claims. Baker won a modest recovery from several City defendants on one civil rights claim, and from the City defendants and a private defendant on one state law tort claim, but the defendants prevailed on the remaining claims. The district court granted attorneys’ fees to Baker, but denied him costs as prevailing party, awarding costs to the City for prevailing against two other plaintiffs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, finding no abuse of discretion under 42 U.S.C. 1988 in either the court’s refusal to award costs to plaintiffs or its decision to award costs to the City for the claims raised by family members. The court remanded for recalculation of fees. View "Baker v. Lindgren" on Justia Law

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Appeal, following dismissal of civil rights suit against judges that presided over plaintiff’s divorce, was frivolous. After her former husband was awarded custody of their son, Myrick brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking damages from the six Wisconsin state judges and court commissioners who presided over parts of the lengthy divorce and child‐custody proceedings. She claimed that, by ruling against her, the judges manifested bias in favor of her former husband, violating her right to due process, and overlooked misconduct by her former husband, her son’s guardians ad litem, and her own attorney. The district court summarily dismissed the suit because judges are absolutely immune from awards of damages for acts taken in a judicial capacity, whether or not the judges erred in conducting the litigation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, calling the appeal frivolous. Judicial immunity is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or malice. View "Myrick v. Greenwood" on Justia Law