Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Davis, an Illinois prisoner suffering from kidney disease, received dialysis on a Saturday. He subsequently told a prison nurse that his mind was fuzzy and his body was weak. Both complaints were similar to side effects he had experienced in the past after dialysis. The nurse called Dr. Kayira, the prison’s medical director, who asked her whether Davis had asymmetrical grip strength, facial droop, or was drooling—all classic signs of a stroke. When she said “no,” Dr. Kayira determined that Davis was experiencing the same dialysis-related side effects as before rather than something more serious. He told the nurse to monitor the problem and call him if the symptoms got worse. Dr. Kayira did not hear anything for the rest of the weekend. On Monday morning he examined Davis and discovered that Davis had suffered a stroke. Davis sued, alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment and a state-law medical-malpractice claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Kayira. The deliberate-indifference claim failed because there is no evidence that Kayira was aware of symptoms suggesting that Davis was suffering a stroke. The state-law claim failed because Davis lacked expert testimony about the appropriate standard of care. A magistrate had blocked Davis’s sole expert because he was not disclosed in time, Davis never objected to that ruling before the district court. View "Davis v. Kayira" on Justia Law

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On September 28, 2000, Camm, a former Indiana State Trooper, arrived home and discovered his wife lying on the garage floor, having been shot in the head. His children, Brad and Jill, were dead in his wife’s vehicle. Camm thought Brad might be alive, so he reached over Jill’s body, pulled Brad out, and began performing CPR. Jill’s blood ended up on his T-shirt. Camm called the Indiana State Police. Floyd County prosecutor Faith arrived and decided to hire an Oregon private forensics analyst, specializing in blood-spatter analysis, a subjective field he admits is only partly scientific. The analyst's assistant, Stites, arrived to document evidence and take photos. Stites is not a crime scene reconstructionist, has never taken a bloodstain-analysis course, and has almost no scientific background. Stites told investigators that the blood on Camm’s shirt was “high-velocity impact spatter” (HVIS), which occurs only in the presence of a gunshot. Stites identified HVIS bloodstains on the garage door, shower curtains, breezeway siding, a mop, and a jacket. Only the stain on the T-shirt was actually blood. Stites also stated that the blood was manipulated by a high pH cleaning substance. Faith and the investigators also found a prison-issue sweatshirt in the garage with a nickname written on the collar. The Indiana Department of Corrections has a database of inmate nicknames, but no one tried to match the nickname to a former prisoner. A palm print on Kimberly Camm’s car was not run through the system for a match. Camm’s attorney had the sweatshirt tested, uncovering a DNA profile. Faith agreed to run the profile through CODIS and stated that nothing came up; he never actually ran the test. At trial, Stites gave credentials and made statements that were indisputably false. Camm was twice convicted but was acquitted after a third trial. The DNA, nickname, and palm print had, by then, identified the actual killer. Camm sought damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for the 13 years he spent in custody. Reversing the district court, the Seventh Circuit held that Camm presented enough evidence for trial on the Fourth Amendment claim, as it relates to the first probable-cause affidavit. A trial is also warranted on aspects of the Brady claim: whether some defendants suppressed evidence of Stites’s lack of qualifications and their failure to follow through on a promise to run a DNA profile. View "Camm v. Faith" on Justia Law

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Tracking a fugitive, Deputy Marshal Linder interrogated the fugitive’s father. Another deputy saw Linder punch the father. Linder was indicted for witness tampering and using excessive force and was put on leave. McPherson, the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois, instructed other deputies not to communicate with Linder or his lawyers without approval. The indictment was dismissed as a sanction. Linder returned to work. Linder filed a “Bivens action,” against McPherson and a suit against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b). The district court dismissed all of Linder’s claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed against the government alone. Section 2680(a) provides that the Act does not apply to “[a]ny claim ... based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a federal agency or an employee of the Government, whether or not the discretion involved be abused.” In deciding when federal employees needed permission to talk with Linder or his lawyer, McPherson exercised a discretionary function. The court rejected arguments that the discretionary function exemption does not apply to malicious prosecution suits. “Congress might have chosen to provide financial relief to all persons who are charged with crimes but never convicted. The Federal Tort Claims Act does not do this.” View "Linder v. McPherson" on Justia Law

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Chazen was convicted of possessing a firearm as a felony and was sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1), which mandates a minimum 15-year sentence if a defendant unlawfully possesses a firearm and has three prior convictions for a serious drug offense or violent felony, which “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another” or is “burglary, arson, or extortion.” At the time, the definition included a residual clause, which encompassed any felony that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” In 2015, the Supreme Court held the residual clause void for vagueness. Chazen has felony convictions under Minnesota law for second-degree assault, second-degree manufacture of a controlled substance, escape from custody, and second-degree burglary. After an unsuccessful appeal and 28 U.S.C. 2255 habeas petition, Chazen sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the grant of relief. The government conceded that Chazen’s controlled substances conviction did not qualify as a serious drug offense. Minnesota's burglary statute covers more conduct than generic burglary and does not qualify as an ACCA predicate violent felony. Relief was available under section 2241 because, at the time of Chazen’s 2013 section 2255 petition, precedent foreclosed any contention that his Minnesota burglary convictions did not qualify as violent felony predicates. View "Chazen v. Marske" on Justia Law

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Johnson suffers from mental ailments, including paranoid schizophrenia, major depressive disorder recurrent, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Starting in mid-2011, he had been admitted intermittently to Milwaukee County Medical Health Complex (MHC) for treatment. During one stay, on March 18, 2012, Johnson substantially harmed himself, leading to this present suit. Johnson brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that constitutionally inadequate medical care led to his self-mutilation. Johnson included “Monell” claims that the institutional defendants maintained unconstitutional policies, procedures, and customs that caused his injuries and claimed that defendants engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the constitutionally inadequate care. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of all defendants. While Johnson’s medical condition was objectively serious and the doctor knew of his condition, no reasonable fact-finder could find that the doctor’s decision to remove him from observation was outside the bounds of a competent medical professional’s judgment. The fact that one of three nurses may have left scissors in Johnson’s bathroom is not enough to establish individual liability. View "Johnson v. Rimmer" on Justia Law

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Cobb, an Indiana prisoner, brought a state-court negligence action against Aramark for failing to clean up a spill in the kitchen at the Pendleton Correctional Facility on December 15, 2014, causing him to slip and fracture his ankle. Cobb claims, and the counselor affirmed, that on December 9, 2016, he handed his notarized complaint to a prison counselor, who delivered this complaint to the mailroom on the same day. The complaint was not actually mailed until December 19. Aramark removed the case to federal court, then asserted that the complaint was untimely under Indiana’s two-year limitations period; the district court agreed. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district court misinterpreted Indiana’s prison mailbox rule. The complaint should be deemed “filed” under the prison mailbox rule on the date he handed it to his counselor for mailing. The Indiana Supreme Court has held that a court shall deem a court filing timely if a pro se prisoner litigant submits the filing to prison officials for mailing on or before its due date, and the prisoner “provide[s] reasonable, legitimate, and verifiable documentation supporting a claim that a document was timely submitted to prison officials for mailing.” View "Cobb v. Aramark Correctional Services LLC" on Justia Law

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Cook County residents brought a Second Amendment challenge to Cook County’s ban on assault rifles and large-capacity magazines. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, noting that in 2015 it upheld a materially indistinguishable ordinance against a Second Amendment challenge. The court rejected an argument that its precedent was wrongly decided and that this claim should be evaluated under a test that tracks more closely the language that the Supreme Court employed in its 2008 Heller decision. View "Wilson v. Cook County" on Justia Law

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Lockett has been housed at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility since November 2014. He has a significant medical history, having been diagnosed with sickle cell disease, a chronic condition that causes pain, sometimes acutely. During certain periods called sickle cell crises, the pain becomes so severe that it requires immediate emergency medical treatment. Lockett sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 to recover for alleged violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. He alleged that he received inadequate medical care while incarcerated at WSPF and that two prison medical staff members were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that the record would not support a jury determination that the WSPF nurse practitioner was deliberately indifferent to Lockett’s needs in prescribing medication. The decision to prescribe non-narcotic pain medication was within the bounds of professional judgment. Lockett did not exhaust his administrative remedies on his claim against a nurse. View "Lockett v. Bonson" on Justia Law

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Green was walking through the parking lot of a Chicago gas station. An unmarked police vehicle turned into the lot. Green began to run as the vehicle approached, arousing the suspicion of the four officers inside. One officer chased him on foot and saw him drop and pick up a handgun. Green fled into a residential neighborhood, where another officer caught up with him in the backyard of a home. The officer claims Green began to raise a gun in his direction; the officer fired five shots, wounding Green in the hand and chest. Green denied that he had a gun at any time on the night in question. Green was on probation for a felony drug conviction. A state judge revoked his probation, finding that Green possessed a gun during this encounter. Green sued the officers and the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983. A Fourth Amendment excessive‐force claim against the officer who shot him was submitted to the jury, which returned a verdict for the officer. Green argued that the district judge improperly instructed the jury that the state court’s gun‐possession finding was conclusive. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Green’s excessive‐force claim was premised on his contention that he was unarmed during this encounter but the state judge found that he had a gun; that finding has preclusive effect. View "Green v. Junious" on Justia Law

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Indiana statutes provided a fast and confidential judicial bypass procedure that is supposed to allow a small fraction of pregnant, unemancipated minors seeking abortions to obtain them without the consent of or notice to their parents, guardians, or custodians, Ind. Code 16-34-2-4(b). In 2017, Act 404 added a parental notification requirement: Parents must be given prior notice of the planned abortion unless the judge also finds such notice is not in the minor’s “best interests” unlike the judicial bypass of parental consent, which may be based on either maturity or best interests. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the new notice requirements, finding it likely to “create an undue burden for a sufficiently large fraction of mature, abortion-seeking minors in Indiana.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Indiana’s notice law creates a substantial risk of a practical veto over a mature yet unemancipated minor’s right to an abortion. This practical veto appears likely to impose an undue burden for the unemancipated minors who seek to obtain an abortion without parental involvement via the judicial bypass. Indiana has made no effort to support with evidence its claimed justifications or to undermine with evidence Planned Parenthood’s showing about the likely effects of the law. View "Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. v. Adams" on Justia Law