Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Emerson, a Cook County Department of Corrections corrections officer, alleged that County employees unlawfully discriminated against her during her “tumultuous” tenure at a County detention facility. During that time, she twice filed formal personnel grievances. She claims that she was subsequently the victim of retaliation. She was on paid medical leave from September 2012 until March 2014, and she has remained on unpaid leave ever since. While her claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, were pending, Emerson took to Facebook to threaten potential witnesses with legal action if they testified against her. The district judge sanctioned Emerson ($17,000) for the threat and eventually entered summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that Emerson’s grievance regarding scheduling did not qualify as protected activity under Title VII because it did not allege that Grochowski (who made the schedule) targeted her because of her race, sex, or other protected characteristic. Emerson had no proof that Grochowski ever knew of her earlier grievance, so she cannot establish that they harbored the retaliatory motive necessary for a Title VII retaliation claim. View "Emerson v. Dart" on Justia Law

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In December 2003, Chicago detectives separately questioned Johnson about a shooting death. Johnson admitted that he drove the shooter to the scene but claimed not to know anything about the plan. Johnson was charged with murder under an accountability theory. Johnson unsuccessfully moved to suppress his statements based on noncompliance with Miranda. At a 2007 trial, the detectives testified about Johnson’s statements. The jury found him guilty. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed in 2010. At a second trial in 2012, the detectives repeated their testimony. Johnson was convicted. The appellate court reversed in 2014, citing insufficient evidence. In 2015, Johnson sued the detectives under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that they violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by interrogating him without Miranda warnings and giving testimony about his unwarned statements. The district court found the claims untimely because Johnson filed suit more than two years after his statements were introduced at trial. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. Precedent (Heck) blocks a section 1983 claim that necessarily implies the invalidity of a criminal conviction unless the plaintiff can show that the conviction has been invalidated; if a claim is Heck-barred, accrual is deferred until the conviction is overturned. Claims of this kind necessarily imply the invalidity of the convictions, so Heck’s deferred accrual rule applies. The first conviction was reversed in 2010, so those claims are untimely. Claims relating to the second trial are timely. View "Johnson v. Winstead" on Justia Law

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Heishman was high on amphetamines and running naked in the street. Indianapolis police tried to subdue him. A paramedic administered a sedative to Heishman so he could be moved to an ambulance to be taken to a hospital. Soon, Heishman’s heart and breathing stopped. Despite efforts to revive him, he died days later. Heishman’s estate sued, asserting federal Fourth Amendment claims and state-law tort claims. The district court denied the paramedic qualified immunity on the excessive force claim and allowed all but one of the state-law claims to proceed against the paramedic and the hospital without requiring the plaintiff to comply with the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act. On interlocutory appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed as to both issues. Case law does not clearly establish that a paramedic can violate a patient-arrestee’s Fourth Amendment rights by exercising medical judgment to administer a sedative in a medical emergency. All of the state-law claims are subject to the substantive terms of Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, including damage caps and the requirement to submit the claim to a medical review panel before suit is filed. The undisputed facts show that the paramedic was exercising medical judgment in dealing with a patient in a medical emergency. View "Thompson v. Cope" on Justia Law

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The warrant application was supported by statements from “Doe,” that for the previous six months she regularly bought heroin from T (Doe only knew him by sight and street name) in a house, which she identified while driving with the police. A judge questioned Doe under oath and issued the warrant. Executing the warrant, officers found Walker in a house that looked like a drug house. Walker stated that she had a gun but could not remember where it was. The search took 90-120 minutes. Officers left without drugs or evidence of T’s whereabouts. Walker sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court granted defendants summary judgment; more than 16 months passed before the judge released her opinion. Walker appealed that day. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first noting that under Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(7)(A)(ii), a judgment is deemed to be entered on the earlier of the Rule 58 judgment or 150 days after a dispositive order is entered. “Deferring the opinion until after the time allowed by Rule. 4(a)(7)(A)(ii) is never appropriate, as it can spell disaster for a litigant not versed in the appellate rules.” Addressing the merits, the court stated that Walker’s goal was to have a jury decide whether the state judge should have issued the warrant but with the benefit of “great deference” the state judge’s probable-cause evaluation must prevail. Nothing was concealed from the judge and, under the circumstances, a two-hour search was not unreasonable. View "Walker v. Weatherspoon" on Justia Law

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On October 12, Gomes, a 52-year-old Indian national, was arrested for failing to appear for jury duty. A non-citizen, Gomes, was actually ineligible for jury duty. Gomes pulled away from the officer and was charged with resisting arrest. At Lake County Jail, Gomes was placed on suicide watch. On October 14, Gomes was transferred to ICE custody. She was released within days. On December 14, after failing to appear on the resisting-arrest charge, Gomes was back in the Jail. Her physical and mental health were deteriorating. She refused to eat and drink. Medical providers did little other than monitoring. Gomes died. The administrator of Gomes’s estate filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Lake County, Jail officials, and CCS, the Jail’s contract medical provider, and its employees. The court dismissed the County defendants and granted the medical defendants FRCP 50(a) judgment on some claims. The Estate prevailed on another claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Nothing in the record justifies a finding of personal liability against the County defendants, who received assurances that CCS staff were regularly monitoring Gomes. Medical providers stated that Gomes was stable and promised to send her to the hospital if necessary. The Estate presented no evidence that some feature in the Jail’s policy caused Gomes’s death. Rule 50(a) judgment, however, was premature. The record contains ample evidence from which a jury could infer that the doctors’ inaction diminished Gomes’s chances of survival. View "Miranda v. County of Lake" on Justia Law

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Chicago Officer Frano obtained the approval of the state’s attorney’s office and obtained a search warrant based on a tip from a confidential informant, who claimed to have purchased heroin from Edmond at 736 North Ridgeway. Frano had driven the informant past the building to confirm the location and showed the informant a photograph to confirm Edmond's identity. The complaint specified the date of the tip but not the date of the alleged drug sale. Frano attested that the informant had provided dependable information about narcotics activities for five years. The complaint did not mention that the informant was facing felony drug charges or that a state court had revoked his bail and issued an arrest warrant. Officers searched the Ridgeway apartment and recovered loaded handguns, heroin, and cocaine. Edmond was not present but was arrested later. Before trial, Edmond unsuccessfully moved to suppress his post-arrest statements, claiming that he did not waive voluntarily his Miranda rights. .He was convicted of firearm and heroin charges but acquitted of a cocaine charge. The Seventh Circuit dismissed his appeal, citing "Anders." The district court denied his 28 U.S.C. 2255 pro se motion to set aside his conviction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Applying "Strickland," the court agreed that Edmond’s trial attorney performed below an objective standard of reasonableness; but, although the search warrant was not supported by probable cause, the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. Objectively reasonable police officers could have relied in good faith on the search warrant so Edmond was not prejudiced by his attorney’s deficient performance. View "Edmond v. United States" on Justia Law

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Wheelchair-using detainees sued Cook County, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, based on purportedly inaccessible ramps and bathroom facilities at six county courthouses. The district court certified a class for purposes of injunctive relief. The named plaintiffs also sought damages individually for the same alleged violations. The district court held an evidentiary hearing on the equitable claims and entered a permanent injunction, finding that the defendants had violated the ADA. Relying largely on the same findings, the court granted the plaintiffs partial summary judgment on liability in their personal damage actions, then submitted the question of individual damage awards to a jury. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part. The district court improperly relied on its own findings of fact when it granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs on their damage claims. When equitable and legal claims are joined in a single suit, common questions of fact should be tried first to a jury unless there are extraordinary circumstances or an unequivocal waiver by all parties of their jury trial rights. The court upheld the class certification. View "Lacy v. Cook County, Illinois" on Justia Law

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Vasquez and Miguel, convicted child sex offenders, must register as sex offenders and comply with state restrictions on where they may live. A child sex offender may not knowingly live within 500 feet of a school, playground, or child-care center, 720 ILCS 5/11-9.3. A few years after their convictions, Illinois added child and group day-care homes to the 500-foot buffer zone. When the men updated their sex-offender registrations, the Chicago Police Department told them they had to move because child day-care homes had opened up within 500 feet of their residences and gave them 30 days to comply. The men sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the statutory amendment imposed retroactive punishment in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause; that applying the amended statute to them constituted an unconstitutional taking of their property; and that the statute is enforced without a hearing for an individualized risk assessment and is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest, in violation of their due process rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the suit on the pleadings. The amended statute is neither impermissibly retroactive nor punitive. The Takings Clause claim was unexhausted and the amendment was adopted before they acquired their homes, so it did not alter their property-rights expectations. The procedural due process claim fails because there is no right to a hearing to establish a fact irrelevant to the statute. The law “easily satisfies rational-basis review.” View "Vasquez v. Foxx" on Justia Law

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Flatoff took hostages at a Neenah, Wisconsin motorcycle shop. After Flatoff threatened to start shooting, police unsuccessfully attempted an entry. Hostage Funk escaped out the back door of the shop and was shot and killed in the alleyway by two police officers, who mistakenly believed Funk was Flatoff. Funk’s wife filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the officers and the city, alleging that both officers used unreasonable and excessive force against Funk. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, finding that the officers’ conduct was not objectively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment and that even if their conduct was unreasonable, they were shielded from liability by qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding the qualified immunity issue dispositive. The court noted that at least one officer believed that the situation was an ambush and that when Funk appeared in the officers’ line‐of‐sight holding a gun, the officers, in a matter of seconds, concluded that Funk was one of the people inside the shop who had shot at them only minutes ago. View "Mason-Funk v. City of Neenah" on Justia Law

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Mitchell is a transgender person who has identified as a woman her entire life. In 2008, Mitchell received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. She was convicted of a crime and sent to Wisconsin’s Columbia Correctional Institution in 2011. Mitchell requested hormone treatment, triggering a multistep process that the Department of Corrections outlined in its then-new policy on Health Care Treatment of Gender Identity Disorder. It took DOC over a year to evaluate Mitchell’s candidacy for hormone therapy. DOC then refused to provide Mitchell with the treatment its own expert recommended, on the ground that Mitchell was within a month of release from the prison. Although DOC’s Mental Health Director encouraged Mitchell to find a community provider to prescribe her hormones, the terms of Mitchell’s parole actually prohibited her from taking hormones or dressing as a woman. Mitchell sued. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the district court prematurely rejected some of Mitchell’s claims. Persons in criminal custody are entirely dependent on the state for their medical care, so prison officials have a constitutional duty to provide inmates with the care they require for serious medical needs. Prison staff cannot wait for an inmate’s sentence to expire before providing necessary treatments; state officials may not block a parolee from independently obtaining health care. The condition must be serious enough to trigger constitutional protection; otherwise, the nature of the disorder is irrelevant. View "Mitchell v. Kallas" on Justia Law