Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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In 2000 Balsiger took the helm of IOS, a large coupon processing companies. IOS contracted with large retail chains and small, independently owned stores to collect and sort coupons redeemed at their stores and to submit invoices for reimbursement either directly to the manufacturer or indirectly to the manufacturer’s agent. For his role in designing and implementing a scheme to defraud those manufacturers, Balsiger was charged with 25 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy both to commit wire fraud and obstruct justice. After a decade of litigation, Balsiger represented himself at a bench trial with the assistance of stand-by counsel. The district court convicted Balsiger on 12 counts and sentenced him to 120 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Balsiger’s argument that the court deprived him of his Sixth Amendment right to retain the counsel of his choice by failing to grant an 18-month continuance and by refusing to order the government to remove a lis pendens on his home—a notice to potential buyers that title to the property might be impaired by the outcome of his criminal prosecution. The court upheld the district court’s conclusion, following the death of Balsiger’s attorney, that Balsiger waived his right to counsel and its decision to require him, over his objection, to proceed pro se. View "United States v. Balsiger" on Justia Law

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During a drug deal, Bishop was pepper sprayed by his customer and shot her. He was convicted of discharging a firearm during a drug transaction, 18 U.S.C. 924(c). He argued that the warrant authorizing a search of his cell phone violated the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that every warrant “particularly describ[e] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized” by describing the “place to be searched” as the cell phone Bishop carried during the attempted sale, and describing the things to be seized as: any evidence (including all photos, videos, and/or any other digital files, including removable memory cards) of suspect identity, motive, scheme/plan along with DNA evidence of the crime of Criminal Recklessness with a deadly weapon which is hidden or secreted [in the cellphone or] related to the offense of Dealing illegal drugs. The Seventh Circuit upheld the denial of Bishop’s motion to suppress. While the warrant permitted the police to look at every file on the phone and decide which files satisfied the description, the warrant was not too general. It is enough if the warrant confines the things being looked for by stating what crime is under investigation. A warrant need not be more specific than knowledge allows. View "United States v. Bishop" on Justia Law

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Roundtree was sentenced to life in prison for selling heroin that led to a user’s death, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C). Seven years later the Supreme Court held (Burrage) that a judge must tell a jury that the death-resulting condition is satisfied only if the drug was a but-for cause of the fatality; a contributing cause is not enough. The jury charge at Roundtree’s trial did not satisfy Burrage. He filed collateral attacks on his sentence in the Northern District of Iowa (where his trial occurred), 28 U.S.C. 2255, and the Southern District of Indiana (where he is confined), 28 U.S.C. 2241. Both judges rejected his contentions. The Eighth Circuit held that, because Burrage is retroactive, Roundtree is entitled to use section 2255 to contest his conviction despite the lapse of time, but that his failure to dispute the jury instruction at trial forfeited any benefit from a later Supreme Court decision. The Eighth Circuit recognized that a procedural default may be excused if the accused is innocent but found that Roundtree had not met that requirement. He never argued that a properly instructed jury would have been compelled to acquit him of either selling heroin or the death-results enhancement; Roundtree was not prejudiced by the error, The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that Roundtree would have been convicted even under the Burrage instruction and that the Supreme Court is the proper place for review of the Eighth Circuit decision. View "Roundtree v. Caraway" on Justia Law

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McCann was severely burned while attempting to commit arson at his mother’s house and spent three weeks in the hospital before being released to police custody. McCann died from a doctor’s over-prescription of methadone while detained and awaiting trial at the Ogle County Correctional Center. His estate brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging deliberate indifference to McCann’s severe burn wounds and related medical needs. The treating physician and his private employer settled the claims. The district court entered summary judgment for the remaining defendants, concluding that the evidence did not show that any individual defendant acted with deliberate indifference. The Seventh Circuit subsequently replaced deliberate indifference with a standard requiring a showing of objective reasonableness for a claim challenging the medical care provided to a pretrial detainee like McCann. Measuring the record evidence under this new standard, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the award of summary judgment to the individual defendants and a determination that the record evidence did not support a claim for municipal liability against Ogle County under Monell. View "McCann v. Ogle County" on Justia Law

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The Twenty-first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, section 2, forbids the “transportation or importation” of liquor into a state in violation of that state’s law. The Supreme Court has decreed that states may not infringe upon other provisions of the Constitution under the guise of exercising that power and now is considering whether the Twenty-first Amendment permits states to regulate liquor sales by limiting retail and wholesale licenses to persons or entities that have resided within the state for a specified time (Tennessee Wine). Illinois allows retailers with an in-state physical presence to ship alcoholic beverages to consumers anywhere within Illinois but will not allow out-of-state businesses to apply for a similar shipping license. Plaintiffs claimed violations of the Commerce Clause and Privileges and Immunities Clause. Illinois argued that because all retailers are barred from shipping from out-of-state, the provision does not discriminate against out-of-state retailers, and that that the differential treatment is necessitated by permissible Twenty-first Amendment interests. The district court dismissed the challenge. The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting material contested issues about the necessity for and justifications behind the Illinois statute, and the possible impact of the Tennessee Wine decision. The court characterized some of the state’s justification as possible protectionism. View "Lebamoff Enterprises, Inc. v. Rauner" on Justia Law

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Bogart, a Democrat, worked as the Financial Resources Director of Vermilion County, Illinois. Marron, a Republican, assumed control of the County Board and fired her. She brought claims under the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause, alleging that Vermilion County and Marron violated her right of political affiliation and engaged in political retaliation. The district court dismissed the equal protection claim as duplicative of the First Amendment claim, and, after finding that the substantial fiscal and budgetary responsibilities of Bogart’s position fit within the exception to political patronage dismissals, granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court has held (the Elrod-Branti exception) that, while public employers cannot condition employment on an individual’s political affiliation, an employee’s First Amendment right of political association leaves room for employers to dismiss employees in positions where political loyalty is a valid job qualification. Determining whether a particular job fits within the exception requires “focus on the inherent powers of the office as presented in the official job description,” while also looking at “how the description was created and when, and how often, it was updated.” Bogart held a senior position requiring the trust and confidence of the elected Board members, including the County Chairman, and entailing substantial policymaking authority. View "Bogart v. Vermilion County" on Justia Law

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In 1988, Huber pleaded guilty to making fraudulent credit card charges of $800. He spent the next 25 years either on probation or in prison for violating his probation, although Wisconsin had no lawful basis for extending his sentence beyond November 1995. It took the state until 2014 to recognize this problem and to vacate his ongoing sentence. Huber filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, ruling that Huber had failed to bring most claims within six years of their accrual, as required under Wisconsin’s statute of limitations. Some of Huber’s claims were timely, but the court granted the defendants summary judgment on the merits. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Huber’s claims were timely and summary judgment was premature on those claims that the district court reached. Huber’s claim did not accrue until the court invalidated his sentence. Huber filed this action in 2016, within Wisconsin’s six-year statute of limitations. He did not sit on his rights under the Heck doctrine, which ensures that civil litigation does not undermine the basis of criminal convictions and sentences. A reasonable jury could find deliberate indifference here. Construing facts and inferences in Huber’s favor, Huber’s Eighth Amendment claims are not suitable for summary judgment. View "Huber v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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After Illinois State Senate Minority (Republican) Leader Brady decided to remove McCann from the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus and to deny McCann certain resources, McCann and his constituent sued Brady under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal; legislative immunity blocks all of McCann’s theories. Minority Leader Brady’s decisions about who is included within the Caucus, and how to allocate resources to those people, are protected as decisions that fit within the ambit of the “things generally done in a session of the [legislative body] by one of its members in relation to the business before it.” Extra help in the form of staff resources is part of the leader’s toolkit for managing his troops. Brady did not “oust” McCann from the legislature and there is no objective standard for second-guessing the leadership’s judgment about the distribution of resources. McCann would have the federal courts micro-manage exactly which resources, and in what amount, the legislative leaders of the two major political parties dole out to their members. The separation of powers principle reflected in Article II, section 1 of the Illinois Constitution, and inherent in the federal Constitution, requires the courts to accept the final output of the legislature without sitting in judgment about how it was produced. View "McCann v. Brady" on Justia Law

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Taylor, a former Lawrenceburg, Indiana police officer, also held positions with the civil-city, parks, and electric departments. Taylor ran for a City Council position and improperly appeared in police uniform at a campaign event and represented on his time sheet that he was on duty during that event. The State Police investigated, resulting in criminal charges for Official Misconduct and Ghost Employment. Taylor won election to the Council. Taylor signed a deferred prosecution agreement admitting to the criminal charges and agreeing to resign from the Council. The next day, he distributed a letter accusing the Board and city officials of corruption and criminal wrongdoing. The Board notified Taylor of its intent to terminate his employment. The Board terminated Taylor’s employment, crediting a prosecutor’s testimony that he would not accept case-related information from a police officer, like Taylor, who had admitted a crime of dishonesty, and rejected Taylor’s contention that Board members were biased and that the termination proceedings were a response to his letter accusing Board members of wrongdoing. Taylor dismissed his state court appeal and filed a First Amendment retaliation claim, 42 U.S.C. 1983, with state law defamation and whistleblower claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in the city’s favor. Federal courts must give state administrative fact-finding the same preclusive effect to which it would be entitled in state courts, if the agency acted in a judicial capacity and resolved issues that the parties had an adequate opportunity to litigate. The Board acted in a judicial capacity and Taylor had a fair opportunity to litigate the issues. View "Taylor v. City of Lawrenceburg" on Justia Law

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Riley worked for the Kokomo Housing Authority (KHA) for eight years before she was terminated in 2014. During her employment, Riley suffered from seizures, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression, which required her to take leaves of absence. She claims that KHA improperly denied her requests for medical leave and retaliated against her for these requests by disciplining and terminating her, in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2601; that KHA failed to make reasonable accommodations and discriminated and retaliated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101; and that she was subjected to retaliation for engaging in protected activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e and the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3617. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in KHA's favor. Five months elapsed between the end of Riley’s FMLA leave and a written warning; although Riley had requested leave for medical appointments and was told that her leave had been exhausted, she was allowed time off for her appointments nonetheless. Riley alleged that she had been terminated because of her disability, but, in her EEOC complaint, she omitted any allegation that KHA had denied her a reasonable accommodation. Rejecting Riley’s retaliation and FHA claims, the court noted that there is no evidence that she called HUD to report a discriminatory housing practice. View "Riley v. City of Kokomo, Indiana, Housing Authority" on Justia Law