Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Kanter pleaded guilty to mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, based on his submission of bills to Medicare for non-compliant therapeutic shoes and shoe inserts. Due to his felony conviction, he is prohibited from possessing a firearm under both federal and Wisconsin law, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and Wis. Stat. 941.29(1m). He challenged those felon dispossession statutes under the Second Amendment, as applied to nonviolent offenders. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment upholding the laws. Even if felons are entitled to Second Amendment protection, so that Kanter could bring an as-applied challenge, the government met its burden of establishing that the felon dispossession statutes are substantially related to an important government interest in preventing gun violence. Congress and the Wisconsin legislature are entitled to categorically disqualify all felons—even nonviolent felons like Kanter—because both have found that such individuals are more likely to abuse firearms. The “bright line categorical approach … allows for uniform application and ease of administration.” View "Kanter v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nonprofit organization, “[t]akes legal action challenging entanglement of religion and government, government endorsement or promotion of religion.” FFRF paid its co-presidents a portion of their salaries in the form of a housing allowance, seeking to challenge 26 U.S.C. 107, which provides: In the case of a minister of the gospel, gross income does not include— (1) the rental value of a home furnished to him as part of his compensation; or (2) the rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home. Having unsuccessfully sought refunds from the IRS based on section 107 they sued. The district court granted FFRF and its employees summary judgment, finding that the statute violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Seventh Circuit reversed, applying the “Lemon” test. The law has secular purposes: it is one of many per se rules that provide a tax exemption to employees with work-related housing requirements; it is intended to avoid discrimination against certain religions in favor of others and to avoid excessive entanglement with religion by preventing the IRS from conducting intrusive inquiries into how religious organizations use their facilities. Providing a tax exemption does not “connote[] sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the [government] in religious activity.” FFRF offered no evidence that provisions like section 107(2) were historically viewed as an establishment of religion. View "Gaylor v. Peecher" on Justia Law

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Illinois law requires sex offenders to register with the police. Offenders with a fixed residence were required to register either every 90 days or annually; homeless offenders were to report weekly. Some Chicago officers thought the weekly requirement was burdensome and “steered” offenders to identify a residence. Officers directed Regains to a homeless shelter, which they listed as his permanent address, and to return for re-registration in 90 days. When he reported three months later, Regains was arrested on an “investigative alert,” because other officers had not been able to locate Regains at the address provided. Regains remained in custody 17 months before the Illinois trial court found him not guilty of failing to a report a change of address. Regains sued the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the claim as time-barred under Illinois’ two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims and found that the amended complaint lacked sufficient factual details to give fair notice. The Seventh Circuit reversed, concluding that the claim accrued when Regains was released from custody. The court remanded, noting that it will be difficult for Regains to amend his complaint to allege a policy or practice, widespread enough to constitute a custom and that high-ranking Department members knew of the differing practices and allowed them to continue. View "Regains v. Chicago" on Justia Law

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Based on a 2005 domestic violence incident, Jones was charged with battery. For another incident, he was charged separately with intimidation and being a habitual offender. The court set a joint omnibus date of October 18. Indiana law then allowed prosecutors to make substantive amendments to pending charges only up to 30 days before the omnibus date. Nine days after that date, the state moved to amend the battery information to add criminal confinement. Jones’s attorney did not object; the court granted the motion without a hearing. In January 2006, the state moved to amend the intimidation charge to add language Months later Jones’s new attorney unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the amended intimidation information. On the first day of a consolidated trial, the state moved to amend the criminal-confinement charge (battery) again, to add “and/or extreme pain.” The court allowed the third amendment over Jones’s objection. Convicted, Jones was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for criminal confinement, enhanced by 25 years for being a habitual offender. Jones sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, arguing that his lawyer’s failure to object to the untimely first amendment constituted ineffective assistance. The Seventh Circuit granted relief. Applying the state’s statutes, as interpreted by Indiana’s highest court, a competent lawyer should have recognized that relief for his client was possible and would have pursued it. View "Jones v. Zatecky" on Justia Law

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Washington was driving a vehicle he owned when an Indianapolis police officer pulled him over in September 2016. Washington was arrested and charged with dealing in marijuana, resisting law enforcement, and obstruction of justice. The officer had Washington’s vehicle towed and held for forfeiture under Indiana Code 34- 24-1-1(a)(1) and 2(a)(1). In November 2016, Washington demanded the return of his vehicle per I.C. 34-24-1-3. He filed a federal class-action complaint, claiming such seizures violate the due process clause. In February 2017, the Prosecutor’s Office released the vehicle to Washington. The district court certified a class and granted Washington summary judgment, declaring I.C. 34-24-1-1(a)(1) (read in conjunction with other provisions of the chapter) unconstitutional in allowing for seizure and retention of vehicles without an opportunity for an individual to challenge pre-forfeiture deprivation. While an appeal was pending, Indiana amended the statute, arguably increasing the available process by providing for a probable cause affidavit, a motion for provisional release, and a shortened window for the Prosecutor to file a forfeiture complaint. The Seventh Circuit remanded for consideration of the constitutionality of the amended statute, expressing no opinion regarding the constitutionality of the old or new versions of the statute, regarding mootness, or regarding the class. View "Washington v. Marion County Prosecutor" on Justia Law

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Silva, a Brazilian citizen who self-identifies as Latino, worked as a correctional sergeant for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). His use of force on an inmate triggered an internal review process and led to his discharge. The individual defendants, the warden, the human resources director, and a Corrections Unit Supervisor played roles in that review process. Silva filed discrimination claims against the DOC under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e–2(a)(1), against the individual defendants and the DOC under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, and against all defendants under 42 U.S.C. 198. The Seventh Circuit reversed the award of summary judgment to the DOC on the Title VII claim and to the warden on plaintiff’s equal protection claim but otherwise affirmed. A reasonable jury could conclude that Silva and another correctional officer engaged in comparably serious conduct but Silva was discharged while the other officer was suspended for one day .A reasonable jury could conclude that the warden’s evolving explanations for the discrepancy support an inference of pretext. Qualified immunity does not shield the warden from liability. The Eleventh Amendment bars the equal protection claim against the DOC View "Silva v. State of Wisconsin, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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In 1987, D’Antoni was charged with selling cocaine to a juvenile resulting in her death. While in jail, D’Antoni offered another inmate $4,000 to kill a government witness related to the charge. The inmate went to the police. D’Antoni was charged with conspiracy to kill a government witness and pleaded guilty to both charges. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence of 35 years in prison on the drug charge and a consecutive 5-year term for the conspiracy. In 1991, D’Antoni was convicted of conspiracy to distribute LSD while in jail and received an enhanced sentence under the career offender provision of the 1990 Sentencing Guidelines, based on his prior felony drug and felony “crime of violence” convictions. The “crime of violence” definition included a residual clause, encompassing any felony “involv[ing] conduct that present[ed] a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." D’Antoni was sentenced before the Supreme Court (Booker) held that the Guidelines must be advisory. In 2015, the Supreme Court (Johnson), held the identical Armed Career Criminal Act residual clause “violent felony” definition was unconstitutional. D’Antoni sought resentencing, 28 U.S.C. 2255. In 2017, the Supreme Court held that Johnson did not extend to the post-Booker advisory Guidelines residual clause. The Seventh Circuit held, in its 2018 “Cross” decision, that Johnson did render the pre-Booker mandatory Guidelines residual clause unconstitutionally vague. The Seventh Circuit concluded that D’Antoni is entitled to resentencing even though “conspiracy,” “murder,” and “manslaughter” were listed as crimes of violence in the application notes to the 1990 version of USSG 4B1.2. The application notes’ list of qualifying crimes is valid only as an interpretation of USSG 4B1.2’s residual clause; because Cross invalidated that residual clause, the application notes no longer have legal force. View "D'Antoni v. United States" on Justia Law

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Jones observes Islamic dietary restrictions, which forbid the consumption of certain foods and require that others be prepared in accordance with Islamic law (halal). There is overlap in halal and Jewish kosher requirements. Some Muslims—including Jones—find kosher food acceptable. The Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) formerly provided kosher meal trays, with kosher meat, to inmates who requested them. The cost increased. DOC stopped offering the kosher trays and put those inmates on a vegan diet. Inmates seeking kosher food successfully sued the DOC under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc. DOC built kosher kitchens at some facilities and moved as many kosher inmates into those facilities as possible. Inmates who could not be moved continued to receive kosher trays. Inmates (including Jones) in a facility with a kosher kitchen had to eat the food prepared there, which is vegetarian. While many Jewish and Muslim inmates find that diet acceptable, Jones does not. Jones's sect believes that the Qur’an commands him to eat meat regularly. DOC refused his request for kosher trays with meat. The Seventh Circuit held that Indiana’s refusal to provide Jones with meat substantially burdens his exercise of religion under RLUIPA, rejecting the DOC’s argument that he could purchase halal meat at the prison commissary. The state cannot demand that Jones, uniquely among inmates, empty his account and forgo purchasing hygiene products to avoid a diet that violates his religious beliefs. View "Jones v. Carter" on Justia Law

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Henderson was indicted for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute and two related firearms offenses. In accordance with the Marshals Service’s policy in the Springfield Division, Henderson appeared in court for arraignment encircled by four security officers and shackled with leg irons and handcuffs connected to a waist chain. His attorney moved to have him unshackled except for the leg irons for the remainder of the arraignment and at all future pretrial hearings. Counsel argued that routine shackling in court violates the accused’s right to due process and asked the judge to hold a hearing to determine whether Henderson posed an individualized risk to justify the use of full restraints. The judge denied the request, deferring to the Marshals Service’s policy of using full restraints on prisoners at every nonjury court appearance. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the collateral-order doctrine does not apply; due process shackling claims may be effectively reviewed on appeal from a final judgment. The court declined to reframe the appeal as a petition for a writ of mandamus. View "United States v. Henderson" on Justia Law

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DEA agents, with an arrest warrant for Terry, waited for him to return from taking his son to school, arrested him when he got out of his car, and took him in for questioning. Other agents knocked on Terry’s apartment door. A woman answered, wearing a bathrobe. The agents identified themselves, explained that they had arrested Terry, and asked to enter. They did not ask the woman who she was or whether she lived at the apartment. She let them in, signed a consent form, and the search began. The woman then identified herself as the mother of Terry’s son, explaining that her son lived at Terry’s apartment, but she did not. Agents continued the search. At the field office, Terry refused to sign an advice‐of‐rights form, citing his previous experience with law enforcement but stated “he was willing to talk” and made incriminating statements about his role in a conspiracy to distribute heroin. The Seventh Circuit reversed the denial of his motion to suppress. It is not reasonable for officers to assume that a woman who answers the door in a bathrobe has authority to consent to a search of a male suspect’s residence. Terry’s education, sophistication, and familiarity with the criminal justice system provide sufficient evidence that he understood his rights when the agents read them to him and his willingness to speak was a “course of conduct indicating waiver,” notwithstanding his refusal to sign the form. View "United States v. Terry" on Justia Law