Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Freeman, an African-American, began as an "at will" probationary treatment plant operator, collecting and transporting water samples across the mile-long plant. Although operators typically transport these samples in District-owned vehicles, the job description does not require a driver’s license. Three months after Freeman was hired, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, His license was suspended for six months. Freeman began seeing a substance-abuse counselor. As required by his contract, he told the District about the license suspension and his counseling. He bought a bike and a cooler to transport samples and asked whether he could use a go-cart, which does not require a driver’s license on private property. The District refused to approve a state-approved occupational driving permit that would permit him to drive a company vehicle while working. The District fired Freeman, asserting “unsatisfactory performance.” Freeman alleges that the real reason for his firing was his race and because the District regarded him as an alcoholic. Each of four court-recruited attorneys moved to withdraw. The court dismissed his claims of race and disability discrimination and of retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2; and under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12112. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part. Freeman adequately pleaded his discrimination claims. The court affirmed with respect to Freeman’s Monell contention that the District fired him pursuant to an unlawful policy. View "Freeman v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago" on Justia Law

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Firefighter Mollet became a battalion chief in 2009. His relationships with chief Cohn and assistant chief Weber were strained. One night, firefighter Hernandez forgot to stow his gear. Other firefighters displayed the items and posted a paper sign with a Mexican flag and the words “Border Patrol.” Hernandez did not file a complaint but another firefighter reported it. Mollet emailed Cohn and Weber, who agreed “that this crosses the line of firehouse hazing” and asked Mollet to investigate. Four individuals were eventually disciplined. In the following months, Cohn and Weber were critical of Mollet’s performance on multiple occasions and stated that he might be demoted or reassigned. Mollet received an offer of employment from another department. Cohn and Weber indicated that he would be demoted if he did not take that position. Mollet told Weber he was going to accept the offer, which was contingent upon his passing a physical and psychological exam. Cohn sent a letter accepting Mollet’s resignation; Mollet responded he would not resign until the contingencies were met. Cohn responded that Mollet’s employment had terminated. Mollet was placed on paid leave until he submitted his resignation and began his new employment. Mollet filed suit, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, alleging he was retaliated against for opposing workplace discrimination. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting the claim; no reasonable trier of fact could find that reporting the Hernandez incident was the but-for cause of Mollet’s constructive discharge. View "Mollet v. City of Greenfield" on Justia Law

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Illinois inmate Williams sued prison officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that they violated his Eighth Amendment rights by providing inadequate nutrition through a “brunch” program that served only two meals a day. Williams had filed multiple grievances complaining that the prison’s food was making him ill. He mainly objected to the use of soy protein, asserting that it caused him stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, migraine headaches, and excessive gas; he sometimes claimed that he received only 1600 calories per day or fewer than 2800 calories per day, and requested that he be served breakfast. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that the record establishes without dispute that the brunch program was adequate as designed by a licensed dietician to provide 2200-2400 calories per day, including a minimum of six ounces of protein per day. Williams lacks evidence that any of the defendants knew that he was allegedly not receiving adequate nutrition. For persons having special dietary needs, the Department allows therapeutic dietary trays as prescribed by physicians. View "Williams v. Shah" on Justia Law

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A person “who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” is forbidden to possess a firearm, 18 U.S.C.922(g)(1). Kanter was convicted of mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, for bilking the Medicare program, and was sentenced to 366 days in prison. After release, he contended that section 922(g)(1) was invalid, as applied to him because fraud is not a violent crime. Reversing the district court, the Seventh Circuit upheld section 922(g)(1), The Supreme Court has specifically upheld “longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons” and fraud is a thought‐out crime that demonstrates disdain for the rights of others and disrespect for the law. Section 922(g)(1) may be applied to a felon convicted of fraud, whose maximum sentence exceeded a year, even if the actual punishment was less. The court noted that it is not possible to separate persons with felony convictions into two categories: dangerous and harmless and rejected an argument that the section was invalid because Congress has declined to fund a statutory (18 U.S.C. 925(c)) program that would permit the Attorney General to lift the prohibition for persons who demonstrate that they would not present a danger to others. View "Hatfield v. Barr" on Justia Law

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In 2002, the University hired LaRiviere as an Assistant Director of Building Maintenance. In 2011, LaRiviere learned that her supervisor was retiring and asked if the University would waive requirements that the position be publicly posted and filled by someone with an engineering degree. An administrator declined to disregard those requirements and hired Fuligni, a 30‐year Navy veteran who had served as a civil engineer with supervisory authority over hundreds of employees. LaRiviere filed two unsuccessful state court discrimination lawsuits. Fuligni hired Meyer to fill a newly created Associate Director position. LaRiviere reported to Meyer. Over the next several years, LaRiviere had several conflicts with coworkers and supervisors. Notwithstanding these incidents, Lariviere received positive performance reviews. In 2016, the University notified LaRiviere that her employment would end in a year. Fuligni transferred her to a different, newly-constructed building, LaRiviere identified a number of deficiencies. Maintenance immediately addressed those concerns, except for the high humidity. The University replaced LaRiviere, an African-American with a Caucasian man without a college degree. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. LaRiviere has not identified evidence that her ethnicity was the reason for her termination or of a causal connection between a protected activity and her termination. View "LaRiviere v. Board Trustees of Southern Illinois University" on Justia Law

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Under Illinois law, potential candidates for public office must file a nominating petition to gain a place on a political party’s primary ballot. Within a 90-day window, candidates for statewide offices must collect 5,000 signatures from voters in the jurisdiction where the candidate seeks election. Candidates for Cook County offices must collect a number of signatures equal to 0.5% of the qualified voters of the candidate’s party who voted in the most recent general election in Cook County. Applying that formula, Acevedo had to gather 8,236 signatures to appear on the 2018 Democratic primary ballot for Cook County Sheriff. He gathered only 5,654 and was denied a place on the ballot. Acevedo filed suit, alleging violations of his freedom of association and equal protection rights, arguing that the statewide requirement reflects Illinois’s judgment that making candidates collect 5,000 signatures is sufficient to protect the state’s interest in ballot management. Acevedo argued that Illinois could not impose a heightened burden unless doing so furthered a compelling state interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Strict scrutiny is not triggered by the existence of a less burdensome restriction—it is triggered only when the challenged regulation itself imposes a severe burden. Acevedo failed to allege that requiring candidates to gather 8,236 signatures is a constitutionally significant burden. View "Acevedo v. Cook County Officers Electoral Board" on Justia Law

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Shipman pleaded guilty in 2003 to conspiring to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. 846. His presentence report used the 2002 Sentencing Guidelines, which then required courts to increase the offense level of a “career offender.” Shipman had three prior Arkansas convictions for residential burglary in 1986 and 1987. The district court sentenced him to 262 months’ imprisonment as a “career offender.” Neither the presentence report nor the court explained whether Shipman’s career-offender designation rested on the enumerated-offenses clause or the residual clause. In 2005, the Supreme Court rendered the Guidelines “effectively advisory.” In 2015, the Court’s Johnson decision struck down the Armed Career Criminal Act’s residual clause as unconstitutionally vague, subsequently holding that the change applied retroactively on collateral review. Within one year of the Johnson decision, Shipman sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The Seventh Circuit remanded the denial of his petition. While the Guidelines’ residual clause is unconstitutionally vague, the record does not conclusively show whether Shipman was sentenced under the residual clause or the enumerated-offenses clause. All viable bases for Shipman to attack a career-offender designation under the enumerated-offenses clause were available at sentencing and within the one-year limitations period of section 2255(f)(1); there has been no change in the law since then. View "Shipman v. United States" on Justia Law

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Coleman was convicted for a 1994 armed robbery, home invasion, residential burglary, and aggravated sexual assault. Three witnesses linked Coleman to the crimes. The court sentenced Coleman to 60 years’ imprisonment. Fifteen years later, a group of men came forward claiming they were responsible for the crimes. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated Coleman’s convictions and remanded for retrial. Rather than retry the case, the prosecution dropped it. Coleman was released in 2013; a later judicial order certified his innocence. Coleman sued the City of Peoria and four police officers, claiming that they elicited a false statement from an alleged accomplice through coercive interrogation techniques, employed improper and unduly suggestive identification procedures, and suppressed impeachment evidence. After three years of civil litigation, the district court granted defendants summary judgment on Coleman’s federal claims and state law malicious prosecution claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Coleman failed to present evidence supporting a reasonable inference that defendants knowingly fabricated false evidence, caused unreliable eyewitness identifications to taint his criminal trial, withheld material evidence, or arrested him without probable cause. A vacated criminal conviction does not automatically establish that an individual’s constitutional rights were violated, or that police officers and prosecutors are necessarily liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983. View "Coleman v. Peoria" on Justia Law

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Jensen was convicted of the 1998 murder of his wife, Julie. Two weeks before her death, Julie wrote a letter disclaiming any intention of suicide and stating that she feared her husband was going to kill her. She gave the letter to a neighbor in a sealed envelope to give to the police if anything happened to her. Julie also made similar statements to a police officer shortly before her death. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected Jensen’s Confrontation Clause challenge to the admission of Julie’s letter. In a 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas proceeding, the federal district judge issued a conditional writ requiring the state to either release Jensen or initiate proceedings to retry him. In 2015, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Wisconsin timely initiated retrial proceedings. Before the retrial, the state judge concluded that the out-of-court statements were not testimonial, curing the constitutional defect in Jensen’s first trial. Reasoning that a second trial was unnecessary, the judge reinstated Jensen’s conviction. Jensen appealed; the Wisconsin Court of Appeals has not yet ruled. The federal district court denied Jensen’s motion to enforce the conditional writ. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that its jurisdiction is limited to assessing compliance with the conditional writ. Wisconsin complied with the writ when it initiated proceedings for Jensen’s retrial. View "Jensen v. Pollard" on Justia Law

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Fort Wayne Officer Hartman and others responded to an ongoing armed robbery at a Dollar General store, knowing that there had been several armed robberies at area Dollar General stores: two men would enter the store, display handguns, restrain employees, wait for the registers to open, and depart after collecting cash, cigarettes, and employees’ cell phones. Hartman crouched 10-15 feet from the store’s entrance; shelving blocked his view. Other officers positioned themselves beside the entrance. Officers at the back of the store radioed that suspects started to try to escape out the back but then retreated into the store. Video recordings from patrol cars show Hartman approaching the entrance as two men appeared. Johnson ran out of the entrance. Officers shouted to the suspects to get down. Hartman started to run toward Johnson, but then turned to Gant standing in the doorway with his left arm extended, holding the door open. Hartman fired two shots, striking Gant in the abdomen. Hartman believed Gant was preparing to shoot. Gant actually had not been holding anything in his hand. Gant pleaded guilty to armed robbery and filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 excessive force action. The court granted summary judgment of qualified immunity for all defendants except Hartman, finding that a reasonable juror could conclude that Gant was obeying Hartman’s commands or did not have the opportunity to obey. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Hartman’s argument is inseparable from the disputed facts identified by the district court. View "Gant v. Hartman" on Justia Law