Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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The Seventh Circuit concluded that Planned Parenthood has not shown that an Indiana statute that requires medical providers to report complications "arising from" abortions to the state is unconstitutionally vague on its face in this pre-enforcement challenge. The court reversed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Planned Parenthood, vacated the district court's permanent injunction, and remanded for further proceedings.The Complications Statute, Indiana Code 16-34-2-4.7, required physicians to report to the state "any adverse physical or psychological condition arising from the induction or performance of an abortion." The Statute then listed 26 conditions that the state considered reportable conditions. In 2019, the Statute was amended to eliminate the "including" language that had previously indicated that the list was illustrative, rather than exhaustive. The Inspection Statute, Indiana Code 16-21-2-2.6, required annual inspection of abortion providers' facilities, even though other kinds of healthcare facilities are inspected less frequently.The court concluded that Indiana's Complications Statute provides few guideposts to inform practitioners of the conduct that is expected from them, especially when compared with similar statutes in other states. Despite the uncertainties that exist in the Complications Statute, the court is mindful of the context of this litigation: a facial, pre-enforcement challenge to a statute that defendants acknowledge a state agency will interpret and apply. However, at this time, the state agency has yet to issue guidance on the application and enforcement of the law and no state court has attempted to interpret it. The court noted that principles of federalism require it to tread especially carefully when reviewing a state law where the state courts have not had an opportunity to give the law a construction that will produce adequate clarity.In this case, the court cannot conclude that the Complications Statute has no discernable core. The court explained that the complications that a reasonable doctor would find to have arisen from an abortion constitute a core of the Complications Statute. This "core" of the Complications Statute satisfies the void-for-vagueness test: It is understandable by persons of ordinary intelligence and not subject to arbitrary enforcement. The court noted that it is not holding that the Complications Statute is constitutional merely because there may be some complications that clearly arise from an abortion. Rather, the court is only holding that these clear-cut cases constitute a core of the Complications Statute that renders the Statute immune from this pre-enforcement facial challenge. Therefore, the Statute must survive Planned Parenthood's pre-enforcement, facial attack. View "Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky, Inc. v. Marion County Prosecutor" on Justia Law

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Starting next semester, Indiana University students must be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are exempt for medical or religious reasons. Exempted students must wear masks and be tested for the disease twice a week. The district court rejected a due process challenge to those rules.The Seventh Circuit denied an injunction pending appeal. The court noted that vaccinations and other public health requirements are common, that the University has allowed for exemptions, and that the students could choose to attend a school that has no vaccination requirement. View "Klaassen v. Trustees of Indiana University" on Justia Law

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In 1993, Millis and Creeden committed two armed robberies. State police stopped them and searched their vehicle, which contained ammunition, a pistol, and cash from the robberies. The traffic stop was found to be pretextual but Creeden had already implicated Millis as the getaway driver. Millis was convicted of aiding and abetting: an armed bank robbery, the use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, a Hobbs Act robbery, and possession of a firearm by a felon. Millis’s previous convictions, a 1992 Ohio conviction for aggravated assault and a 1991 Ohio conviction for selling marijuana, plus his federal armed bank robbery conviction qualified him as a career offender. The district judge sentenced him to a below-guidelings 410 months’ imprisonment, stating, “if I had discretion ... I would sentence him to about 25 years.”Millis repeatedly sought post-conviction relief. Attempting to benefit from intervening legal changes concerning career offender designation, Millis invoked the 28 U.S.C. 2255(e), “savings clause” to seek habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The savings clause is a narrow exception to the rule that federal sentences must be collaterally attacked under section 2255. Millis’s sentence on his guidelines counts fell within the range for a non-career offender, so his career offender designation did not result in a miscarriage of justice, as required for savings clause relief. View "Millis v. Segal" on Justia Law

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Talevski, living with dementia, was a patient at Valparaiso Care, a state-run Indiana nursing facility. His wife filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA), 42 U.S.C. 1396r, which establishes the minimum standards of care to which nursing-home facilities must adhere in order to receive federal funds in the Medicaid program. Some of the requirements relate to residents’ rights, including two cited by Talevski, the right to be free from chemical restraints imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience rather than treatment and the right not to be transferred or discharged unless certain criteria are met.The district court dismissed the action, finding that FNHRA does not provide a private right of action that may be redressed under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The section 1983 remedy broadly encompasses violations of federal statutory as well as constitutional law. The court noted the express rights-creating language in the statute and that FNHRA is not the type of comprehensive enforcement scheme, incompatible with individual enforcement. The right protected by the statute is not so vague and amorphous that its enforcement would strain judicial competence. View "Talevski v. Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County" on Justia Law

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Johnson, an inmate at Dixon Correctional Center in Illinois, sued medical professionals under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs because none of them referred Johnson for surgery to repair his hernia. In 2011-2016, Dixon's medical professionals evaluated Johnson more than 90 times, including for treatment of his often-uncontrolled diabetes. Johnson complained, intermittently, of hernia pain but the hernia was at times undetectable, and even when detected, it was small and reducible. Johnson claims that the defendants told him that he would not receive surgery unless his hernia became strangulated or incarcerated. They prescribed over-the-counter pain medication and abdominal binders to manage his symptoms.A court-appointed expert, Dr. Toyama opined that the standard of care in treating a “medically fit” individual with an umbilical hernia is surgical repair but when an umbilical hernia is not strangulated or incarcerated, surgery is not urgent and usually scheduled as an elective procedure. Toyama reiterated that Johnson’s medical records showed no evidence that Johnson’s hernia was strangulated or acutely incarcerated and testified that Johson’s medical records established that his hernia never changed significantly, that he continued to be physically active. When asked whether he had any criticisms of the defendants’ treatment, Toyama answered, “No.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in the defendants’ favor. The record failed to support that they acted with deliberate indifference. View "Johnson v. Dominguez" on Justia Law

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Manning pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana and distribution of marijuana. He was sentenced to 210 months’ imprisonment; his prison term was later reduced to 168 months, based on changes to the sentencing guidelines. He is incarcerated in Fort Dix, New Jersey and is scheduled for release in 2025. In July 2020, Manning, pro se, moved for compassionate release based on his prediabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, together with the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court appointed the Federal Public Defender’s Office to represent Manning, stating that although it lacked authority to appoint counsel for defendants seeking relief under the First Step Act, the Federal Public Defender was “willing” to represent defendants who may be eligible for compassionate release as indicated by the district's Administrative Order 265. The federal defender appeared on Manning’s behalf but moved to withdraw. The court then appointed a Criminal Justice Act panel member, who is entitled to compensation up to $2,500.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. Manning’s medical conditions are not extraordinary and compelling cause for a sentence reduction. The factors under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) weighed against his release. The court declined to address whether the district court impermissibly appointed and compensated Manning’s lawyer. View "United States v. Manning" on Justia Law

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Flowers was tipped off about q supposed stash house by a man claiming to be a disgruntled drug cartel courier. Flowers's brother and others recruited Conley to help rob that stash house. The supposed courier was an undercover ATF agent. There was no stash house or real drugs, just a convincing ruse designed to ensnare Flowers and his crew. The FBI had originally focused on Flowers through an investigation into a Chicago street gang. Flowers’s group, including Conley, met to plan the robbery. Conley agreed to participate and volunteered for a frontline role. Once the participants were in a van to go to the stash house, the undercover agent gave the arrest signal. Conley was convicted of conspiring and attempting to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846; possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A); and being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1).Conley invoked 28 U.S.C. 2255 to vacate his convictions, arguing that they were obtained unlawfully through racially selective law enforcement and outrageous government conduct, in violation of his Fifth Amendment equal protection and due process rights, The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion. Although the district court required “clear and convincing” evidence for Conley’s selective enforcement claim, his evidence cannot meet even the less‐demanding standard of preponderance of the evidence. The Seventh Circuit does not recognize a defense for “outrageous government conduct,” and even if it did, ATF’s conduct in Conley’s case would not satisfy the standard other circuits have applied. View "Conley v. United States" on Justia Law

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Contending that his asthma and other breathing issues put him at extra risk should he contract COVID-19 while in prison, Broadfield applied for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). For a prisoner who is younger than 70, relief depends on finding “extraordinary and compelling reasons.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. Broadfield has not been convicted of a weapons offense, but the district court cited such an offense in its decision. However, section 3582(c)(1)(A) does not make a judicial finding of non-dangerousness essential to compassionate release. When Broadfield's application was denied, COVID-19 was a grave problem in America’s prisons. The Bureau of Prisons reports that 1,300 prisoners at FCI Seagoville, where Broadfield is confined, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Because risk of COVID-19, which can bear especially hard on people with pre-existing breathing conditions, was Broadfield’s sole reason for seeking compassionate release, a remand would be pointless. A prisoner who remains at elevated risk because he has declined to be vaccinated cannot plausibly characterize that risk as an “extraordinary and compelling” justification for release. The federal judiciary need not accept a prisoner’s self-diagnosed skepticism about the vaccines as an adequate explanation for remaining unvaccinated, when the responsible agencies all deem vaccination safe and effective. View "United States v. Broadfield" on Justia Law

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Chatman, an African-American, worked as an instructor assistant, 1988-1996. From 1997-2009, she worked as a school library assistant. In 2009, the Board of Education informed her that it was eliminating her position. Chatman learned that the Board had replaced Chatman (age 62) with a younger, non-African American employee in the same role. Chatman filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC and then sued in Illinois state court. The Board settled. In addition to a monetary payment, the district was to arrange for interviews for open positions for which Chatman was qualified. Chatman began identifying available positions but did not receive any job offer. She filed a new charge with the EEOC and later filed suit, alleging violations of Title VII’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions, and violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Board, finding certain claims barred by the statute of limitations, and, regarding other positions, that Chatman could not establish that she was qualified for the positions, nor could she establish that the Board’s nondiscriminatory reasons for not offering her the positions were pretextual for discrimination. Chatman could not establish that she was denied a job because of her prior protected activity. View "Chatman v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Indiana’s Act 442 allowed election officials to remove a voter from the state’s voter rolls automatically (without directly contacting the person) based on information acquired through a third-party database, “Crosscheck,” which provided the voter lists of multiple states. The Seventh Circuit concluded that Act 442 was preempted by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), 52 U.S.C. 20507(d), which requires hearing directly from that voter or providing notice to the voter that he would be removed from the rolls if he did not respond and failed to vote in the next two federal general elections.Indiana replaced Act 442 with Act 334, ending Indiana’s participation in Crosscheck in favor of the Indiana Data Enhancement Association, which is functionally identical to Crosscheck. The Act makes county officials responsible for deciding whether to remove a name, deleting Act 442’s requirement that county officials automatically remove the voter from the rolls. Act 334 instructs county officials to determine: whether a presumptive match in another state “is the same individual who is a registered voter of the county”; whether the registration in another state occurred after the presumptively matching Indiana registration; and whether the voter “authorized the cancellation of any previous registration” when the voter registered in the second state.The Seventh Circuit held that Act 334 is also preempted; it renders inapplicable the rule that a voter must personally authorize the cancellation of her registration before the county official may take that step. View "Common Cause Indiana v. Sullivan" on Justia Law