Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Schmidt was camping in a national forest in Wisconsin when a Forest Service Officer approached and discovered that Schmidt, who had three felony convictions, had a handgun in his tent. Schmidt agreed to pay $1,600 in restitution to the Forest Service for having cut down trees in the national forest without authorization and pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). During a presentence interview, Schmidt told his probation officer of his belief in white supremacy, his hatred for minority races, and his desire to relocate to Germany to embrace his Nazi roots. Schmidt had 17 adult criminal convictions for bail jumping, child abuse, taking and driving a vehicle without the owner’s consent, unlawful use of the phone to threaten harm, criminal damage to property, carrying a concealed weapon, and disorderly conduct and resisting an officer. His Guidelines range was 51-63 months imprisonment. The district court sentenced him to 48 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Schmidt’s argument that consideration of his beliefs at sentencing violated his First Amendment rights. Schmidt’s statements, in light of his criminal history and his continued disrespect for the law, raised a serious question in the sentencing judge’s mind as to whether he posed a threat of violent or anti-social conduct; Schmidt’s beliefs were reasonably related to a legitimate sentencing purpose. View "United States v. Schmidt" on Justia Law

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Alden and his ex-wife shared custody of their children. Alden’s ex-wife complained that Alden was trying to turn the children against her. The court-appointed psychologist, Gardner, evaluated the children, concluded that Alden was using “severe alienation tactics,” and recommended that the court limit Alden to supervised visitation and give full custody of the children to their mother. The court terminated Alden’s custody and ordered all of Alden’s visitation to be supervised. The Appellate Court affirmed. After three unsuccessful attempts to change the decision in state court, Alden filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Gardner, challenging the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act as permitting state courts to take parents’ constitutionally-protected speech into consideration when deciding the best interests of the child and treating parents differently based on whether they are divorced. The district court dismissed for lack of standing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Alden could challenge the Act in his state custody proceedings. The court stated: “This is abusive litigation. Alden, a lawyer representing himself, seems determined to continue the child-custody litigation in another forum even if that means exposing an innocent person such as Gardner to travail and expense. He concedes—indeed, he trumpets—that he has sued someone who he knows is not responsible for enforcing the state’s child-custody laws” and referred the matter to Illinois authorities for determination of whether Alden’s misuse of the legal process calls into question his fitness to practice law. View "E.A. v. Gardner" on Justia Law

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In 2005 Paramount leased a parcel of highway-adjacent property in Bellwood, Illinois, planning to erect a billboard. Paramount never applied for a local permit. When Bellwood enacted a ban on new billboard permits in 2009, Paramount lost the opportunity to build its sign. Paramount later sought to take advantage of an exception to the ban for village-owned property, offering to lease a different parcel of highway-adjacent property directly from Bellwood. Bellwood accepted an offer from Image, one of Paramount’s competitors. Paramount sued Bellwood and Image, alleging First Amendment, equal-protection, due-process, Sherman Act, and state-law violations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Paramount lost its lease while the suit was pending, which mooted its claim for injunctive relief from the sign ban. The claim for damages was time-barred, except for an alleged equal-protection violation. That claim failed because Paramount was not similarly situated to Image; Paramount offered Bellwood $1,140,000 in increasing installments over 40 years while Image offered a lump sum of $800,000. Bellwood and Image are immune from Paramount’s antitrust claims. The court did not consider whether a market-participant exception to that immunity exists because Paramount failed to support its antitrust claims. View "Paramount Media Group, Inc. v. Village of Bellwood" on Justia Law

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A certified class claimed that during 2011 female inmates at an Illinois prison were strip-searched as part of a training exercise for cadet guards; the inmates were required to stand naked, nearly shoulder to shoulder with other inmates in a room where they could be seen by others not conducting the searches, including male officers. Menstruating inmates had to remove their sanitary protection in front of others, were not given replacements, and many got blood on their bodies, clothing, and the floor. The naked inmates had to stand barefoot on a floor dirty with menstrual blood and raise their breasts, lift their hair, turn around, bend over, spread their buttocks and vaginas, and cough. The district court awarded summary judgment to defendants on the 42 U.S.C. 1983 Fourth Amendment theory, because Seventh Circuit precedent holds that a visual inspection of a convicted prisoner is not subject to analysis under that amendment. The jury returned a defense verdict on the Eighth Amendment claim. Because analysis under the Fourth Amendment is objective, while a successful claim under the Eighth Amendment depends on proof of a culpable mental state, the plaintiffs argued on appeal that they could succeed on a Fourth Amendment theory despite the jury’s verdict. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasserting that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to visual inspections of prisoners. Their convictions allow wardens to control and monitor prisoners’ lives, extinguishing the rights of secrecy and seclusion. View "Henry v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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University Park’s mayor and board fired police chief Bradley without any notice of good cause or any form of hearing, in violation of his employment contract. Bradley sued the village and mayor under 42 U.S.C.1983 for violating his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of Bradley’s due process claim on the pleadings. The parties agreed that Bradley had a protected property interest in his continued employment; that the mayor and the village board are the policymakers for their municipality; and that although there was ample opportunity for a hearing, Bradley received no pre-termination notice or hearing. Those points of agreement suffice to prove a section 1983 due process claim against the individual officials and the village, where the village acted through high-ranking officials with policymaking authority. The court rejected the defense’s argument, based on cases that excuse liability for the absence of pre-deprivation due process if the deprivation is the result of a “random, unauthorized act by a state employee, rather than an established state procedure,” and “if a meaningful post-deprivation remedy for the loss is available.” The court reasoned that such a broad reading of precedent would effectively impose an “exhaustion of remedies” requirement that has been rejected by the Supreme Court. View "Bradley v. Village of University Park" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Conroy was charged with solicitation of murder, solicitation of murder for hire, and attempted first‐degree murder. The court determined that Conroy was fit to stand trial. In 2007, Conroy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He did not appeal. Conroy received mental health services through the Illinois Department of Corrections and, in 2007, was diagnosed with depressive and schizoaffective disorders. In 2008, Conroy’s evaluations indicated that he was “alert and oriented,” and his “[t]hought processes were logical, coherent and goal-directed.” Conroy “denied any auditory [or] visual hallucinations or delusions.” In 2009, Conroy filed an unsuccessful state court post-conviction petition, arguing that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by coercing him into pleading guilty. In 2014, Conroy filed other unsuccessful state court post-conviction motions. In 2016, Conroy filed a federal court petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254, alleging ineffective assistance. Conroy argued that the limitations period for filing his petition should be equitably tolled because his mental limitations prevented him from understanding his legal rights. The district court determined that Conroy’s mental limitations were not an extraordinary circumstance and that he failed to show that he had been reasonably diligent in pursuing his claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting evidence of Conroy’s competency in prior years. Conroy did not meet the “high bar” for equitable tolling. View "Conroy v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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Fields, an African-American woman, was an Edgebrook teacher since 2002. Weiden became Edgebrook’s principal in 2013; he required teachers to submit lesson plans. He informed Fields that her plans were too scripted. During observations, he noted often that Fields’s teaching was disconnected from her lesson plans and that students were not engaged. Fields refused assistance. Chicago Public Schools rated Fields’s job performance as “developing.” Fields did not attend an evening “open house” and did not inform the administration that she would not attend and did not attend a mandatory “professional development session.” Fields did not submit timely field trip forms and did not attend a “principal‐directed preparation period.” She failed to turn in lesson plans and failed to properly notify the school about requested leave. When Fields accrued three performance improvement plans, she faced possible disciplinary action. In mediation, the Board suggested that Fields could retire with a “do not rehire” designation. Fields received no discipline but took a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. She retired in 2016 at age 63, without returning to work. Fields sued Weiden and the Board of Education for racial and age discrimination, with a retaliation claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Fields could not show that she suffered an adverse employment action; she was not constructively discharged. She did not establish that anything other than job performance was behind the defendants’ actions. View "Fields v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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M.J.J. and J.K.J. were inmates at Polk County Jail at various times between 2011 and 2014. Christensen admits he engaged in sexual acts with the women individually. He urged the women not to discuss his sexual advances; his assaults were kept hidden from jail officials until a former inmate reported her own sexual encounters with Christensen to an investigator in a neighboring county. An investigation led to Christensen pleading guilty to several counts of sexual assault. He is serving a 30‐year prison sentence. J.K.J. and M.J.J. sued Christensen and the county under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, with a state law negligence claim against the county. A jury found Christensen and the county liable and awarded each woman $2 million in compensatory damages. The jury also levied punitive damages against Christensen, $3,750,000 to each plaintiff. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as to Christensen. His assaults were predatory and knowingly criminal. The court reversed as to the county. To impose liability against the county for Christensen’s crimes, there must be evidence of an offending county policy, culpability, and causation. Christensen’s acts were reprehensible, but the evidence shows no connection between the assaults and any county policy. View "J.K.J. v. Polk County" on Justia Law

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Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) inmate Palmer has a nub which terminates at his left wrist and does not have functional fingers. Before arriving at NRC, Palmer was at Shawnee Correctional Center, where the medical director issued Palmer a low bunk pass. When Palmer arrived at NRC, Franz conducted a routine intake screening. Franz noted his missing hand but ignored Palmer’s request for a low bunk permit and took no other steps in conjunction with Palmer’s deformity. Palmer had to use the top bunk. Palmer made two requests to see a doctor to get a low bunk pass; neither was acknowledged. Palmer fell while attempting to climb down from the upper bunk. He landed on his knee, sustaining a severe injury. Palmer then received a low bunk permit. Palmer filed grievances with IDOC based on the incident. With no response to his grievances, Palmer appealed to the Administrative Review Board, which also went unanswered. Palmer filed suit, alleging that Franz was deliberately indifferent to Palmer’s serious medical need. The district court granted Franz summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The evidence is enough to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that: Palmer suffered from an objectively serious medical condition, Franz knew of the heightened risk of harm, and Franz deliberately failed to act in the face of that harm. View "Palmer v. Franz" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Beason pled guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm. He received a 15‐year mandatory minimum under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e), based on his Wisconsin juvenile adjudication for armed robbery and two Wisconsin drug offenses. The Seventh Circuit dismissed Beason’s appeal in 2012, reasoning that it was enough that his drug offense carried a maximum penalty of at least 10 years and that Beason’s juvenile adjudication was a “violent felony” although Wisconsin armed robbery could be committed without a gun, knife, or explosive. In 2013 he unsuccessfully challenged his juvenile adjudication as a qualifying violent felony (28 U.S.C. 2255), making no arguments about the drug offenses. Four years later, Beason filed a 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition, arguing that neither of his drug offenses carried a sentence long enough to qualify as a “serious drug offense” and that his juvenile adjudication could not count as a “violent felony.” The district court agreed with Beason on the merits but concluded that Beason's section 2255 petition precluded section 2241 relief because he could have raised the exact arguments in his earlier petition. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Beason’s argument about his drug convictions was foreclosed to him at the time of his section 2255 motion; the Seventh Circuit subsequently addressed Wisconsin’s bifurcated sentencing system and held that only the term of initial confinement—not the term of extended supervision—counted towards ACCA’s threshold of 10‐years’ imprisonment for a “serious drug offense.” View "Beason v. Marske" on Justia Law