Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Satkar owns Schaumburg, Illinois hotel and was mentioned in blog posts and a television news report as having made a large donation to a local politician and later won a property-tax appeal. In response, the Cook County Board of Review revoked Satkar’s property-tax reduction and opened an inquiry. Satkar sued the Board, its members and staff, the blog, the television station, and reporters, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and for defamation and false light. The district court dismissed the 1983 claims against the Board and the officials. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court separately dismissed the state-law claims against the media defendants, applying the Illinois Anti-SLAPP statute. Because the section 1983 claims were still pending, the judge entered final judgment under FRCP 54(b) to permit appeal of the SLAPP issue. Later, the judge orally invited Satkar to ask for a Rule 54(b) judgment on the SLAPP dismissal, forgetting that he had already entered final judgment. Satkar did not correct the judge, did not seek clarification, and did not file a notice of appeal. After the deadline to appeal expired, Satkar sought an extension, claiming that the judge’s comment created confusion. The judge granted the extension, relying on the defunct “unique circumstances” doctrine. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal, noting that the Supreme Court has disavowed the unique circumstances doctrine and Satkar has not otherwise demonstrated excusable neglect. View "Satkar Hospitality, Inc.v. Fox Television Stations, Inc." on Justia Law

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Moultrie, who began working at Penn Aluminum in southern Illinois in1990 and held various positions, was demoted from his position as a forklift operator in 2009. Before his demotion, he had filed a grievance concerning a work assignment. That grievance did not allege racial discrimination. He filed another grievance, after the demotion, again not mentioning race. After his claims were rejected by the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC, Moultrie sued. Penn asserted that Moultrie was demoted because of performance problems that caused delays and other problems and about which he was repeatedly warned. Moultrie, attributed Penn’s decision to racial discrimination and retaliation and claimed that Penn’s conduct violated the collective-bargaining agreement. The district court dismissed an Illinois state-law claim as time barred and entered summary judgment against Moultrie on all remaining claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Moultrie failed to provide sufficient evidence to support his discrimination and retaliation claims. View "Moultrie v. Penn Aluminum Int'l, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2006, after coworkers made offensive comments, orally and in graffiti, about Muhammad’s race and perceived sexual orientation, Muhammad complained to management. Caterpillar responded. Walls were repainted and employees were warned that anyone caught defacing the walls would be fired. Six weeks later, Muhammad left his work station during non-break time to use the restroom, and checked the bid board before returning to work. Supervisor Edwards confronted him about use of work time to check the board. Edwards contends that Muhammad responded with disrespectful comments and walked away. Muhammad claimd that he did not act disrespectfully, but did not want to discuss it without a union representative present. Edwards suspended Muhammad and walked him out of the plant, allegedly for insubordination. After an internal investigation, the suspension was deemed appropriate. Muhammad filed a grievance through his union and was allowed to return to work. He was suspended again and later terminated based on his conduct upon his return. Following settlement of his grievance of the termination, he returned to work. He was later laid off in a reduction in force. He was subsequently rehired and remains employed at Caterpillar. Based on the 2006 incidents, Muhammad filed charges of harassment and retaliation with the EEOC. After receiving a right-to-sue letter, he sued, claiming hostile work environment and retaliation. The district court entered summary judgment for Caterpillar. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the company reasonably responded to complaints of harassment and no evidence suggested that Caterpillar suspended Muhammad because he complained. View "Muhammad v. Caterpillar, Inc." on Justia Law

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A government informant bought cocaine and heroin from Davis. Davis expressed an interest in robbery; the informant introduced him to an undercover agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, posing as a disgruntled drug courier. The agent recruited Davis to rob his employer’s stash house, which he said contained 50 kilograms of cocaine and was protected by armed guards. Davis recruited six others. On the day of the intended robbery, the crew (with semiautomatic firearms) met the agent in a parking lot and followed him to a warehouse for a planning session, which was recorded. The seven were arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to possess, with the intent to distribute, five or more kilograms of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 846; conspiring and attempting to affect interstate commerce by means of a robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), and knowingly possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A). Because the prosecution was based on a “sting” initiated by the government, the defendants, all African-American, sought discovery of information relevant to potential racial profiling and selective prosecution. After announcing its intent not to comply with the order, the government sought dismissal without prejudice to facilitate an immediate appeal. The district court granted the request. The government filed an appeal under 18 U.S.C. 3731. The Seventh Circuit concluded that because the dismissal was without prejudice, allowing the government to re-file regardless of the outcome of the appeal, it was not a final order. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Because of inaccurate information about time served in the county jail for two theft convictions, Armanto’s release date was recalculated. After receiving orders from the court that entered his convictions and concerned about the conditions for releasing Armanto, who was previously convicted as a sex offender, employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) sought advice from the Office of the Attorney General. Because the court had not imposed mandatory supervision, IDOC “violated him at the door,” so that he was not released as he expected. After his release, Armato sued five IDOC employees, claiming violation of Armato’s constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983 and false imprisonment.. The district court granted defendants summary judgment, finding that no rational trier of fact could find that Armato was unlawfully detained beyond his court-ordered release date. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Armato did not suffer any injury because he was released prior to the precise date in an “Agreed Order,” the defendants were not deliberately indifferent to Armato’s incarceration, but diligently pursued relief from the AG’s Office for clarification, and Armato’s due process claims failed as a matter of law and were precluded by the remedies available to him in state court. View "Armato v. Grounds" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed district court decisions invalidating Indiana and Wisconsin laws that did not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages, whether contracted in those states or in states (or foreign countries) where they are lawful. The states gave no “reasonable basis” for forbidding same-sex marriage, but more than a reasonable basis was required because the challenged discrimination is “along suspect lines,” being against a minority and based on an immutable characteristic of the members of that minority, against an historical background of discrimination against the persons who have that characteristic. These circumstances create a presumption that the discrimination is a denial of the equal protection. The discrimination does not confer an important offsetting benefit on society as a whole and is not appropriate to its stated objectives. The court stated that: “Formally these cases are about discrimination against the small homosexual minority,” but at a deeper level, they are about the welfare of children. Children adopted by homosexual couples would be better off emotionally and economically if their adoptive parents were married. With respect to the states’ arguments about governmental interest in the welfare of children, the court noted that infertile heterosexual couples are allowed to marry. View "Wolf v. Walker" on Justia Law

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After being caught establishing a fraudulent worker’s compensation insurance program, , Neal was convicted of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and sentenced to 327 months’ imprisonment. He is incarcerated in Terre Haute, Indiana. Prison administrators discovered that he had signed a court document with an alias. They disciplined him for violating a prison rule which forbids forging any document, identification, money, or official paper by revoking his commissary and telephone privileges for 180 days. Neal sought a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. 2241, claiming denial of due process. Neal moved three times to stay proceedings and compel arbitration, submitting a purported arbitration agreement, executed by a representative of the Bureau of Prisons and himself, under his assumed name. The district court denied the motion, noted that the only penalties Neal suffered were the loss of privileges, neither of which affected custody, so that relief under section 2241 was unavailable. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that there is no basis for an arbitration claim. Neal's documents are obvious fabrications and the Federal Arbitration Act governs only maritime contracts and contracts involving interstate commerce. The court imposed an additional fine of $500 on Neal. Until he pays all outstanding fees and sanctions, clerks of all federal courts within the circuit must return unfiled any papers he submits in any habeas corpus action unless the petition attacks a state-court criminal judgment. The court also ordered Neal to show cause why not to sanction him under FRAP 38 for filing a frivolous appeal and forwarded the file for consideration of prosecution for perjury. View "Neal v. Oliver" on Justia Law

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Contending that a guard had assaulted him during a pat-down by inserting a finger in his anus, inmate Rivera filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Drake, the guard, moved to dismiss because Rivera had failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Rivera provided an affidavit claiming to have filed an administrative complaint on the day after the alleged assault. The judge granted summary judgment to the guard, deeming the events too trivial to justify damages. The Seventh Circuit reversed. On remand, Rivera testified that he had filed a written grievance. The judge found that the affidavit and testimony were false. Prison records contained more than 100 of Rivera’s grievances, but none relating to assault during a pat-down until August 2009. Rivera conceded in that grievance (which did not mention Drake) that it was untimely and had been filed only “for exhaustion purposes”. Prison officials testified about how grievances are collected and recorded; the judge concluded that there was little chance that a written grievance would be lost. The judge observed that Rivera’s initial allegation had been that he made an oral complaint, not a written grievance. The court dismissed, concluding that by committing perjury Rivera had forfeited his claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and issued an order requiring Rivera to show cause why it should not revoke his privilege of litigating in forma pauperis and imposing financial sanctions that, if unpaid, will lead to the entry of a litigation-control order. “Rivera has made deceit the norm in his litigation. He is a frequent plaintiff, and many of his suits entail dissembling.” View "Rivera v. Drake" on Justia Law

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Olendzki is a psychologist at an Illinois state prison. After he was elected to his union’s Executive Board, Olendzki began to advocate for fellow union members and to voice concerns to management. Olendzki believes that this advocacy led to hostile relationships with his superiors and caused them to retaliate against him by removing him from a hostage crisis team; ordering him to meet with mentally ill inmates without guard supervision in the same room; relocating his office; increasing his workload; filing a harassment claim against him; not providing a written justification to Olendzki’s request for advance leave time, which resulted in the denial of the request; and revising institutional directives that affected Olendzki’s job duties without Olendzki’s input. Olendzki was never fired, disciplined, or denied an employment opportunity. He sued six of his superiors under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that they retaliated against him for his union advocacy, a violation of his First Amendment rights. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that Olendzki was acting as a union official, not as a public employee, when he made the statements at issue, so that they were not protected under the First Amendment. View "Olendzki v. Rossi" on Justia Law

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In 2004 Miller was charged with First Degree Sexual Assault of a Child. Miller entered a plea of no contest and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 2006, Miller filed notice of intent to pursue post-conviction relief, alleging that he failed to understand his original plea. The court appointed Grau to represent Miller. Grau filed a post-conviction motion. Miller, however, withdrew the motion during an April 2007 hearing. In May, Grau informed Miller that Grau felt there was no legal basis for pursuing post-conviction relief. Miller did not hear back from Grau for months and wrote to the State Public Defender’s Office, which wrote back that the Office “will not appoint successor counsel when a defendant disagrees with the legal conclusions of appointed counsel or wants a second opinion as to the merits of an appeal” and informed Miller that he could proceed pro se, hire a different attorney at his own expense, or direct Grau to file a no-merit report. Miller directed Grau to file a no-merit report; Grau failed to do so. In January, 2008, Miller filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus in a Wisconsin court, arguing ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The court granted Miller’s petition and advised Miller to seek assistance from the State Public Defender. Miller never did so. Miller petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court. After additional proceedings and disputes, Miller proceeded pro se and unsuccessfully sought federal habeas relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Wisconsin court’s denial of Miller’s request for new appellate counsel was not clearly contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law and his challenge to the validity of his plea was procedurally defaulted. View "Miller v. Smith" on Justia Law