Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Officer Sweeney pulled Lewis over for following too closely. Sweeney processed a warning while Lewis, who seemed unusually nervous, sat in the squad car. After learning Lewis was on federal supervised release for a cocaine conviction, Sweeney requested a drug‐sniffing dog roughly 5 minutes into the stop. About 10 minutes and 50 seconds after Lewis pulled over, Sweeney handed him a warning. About 10 seconds later, a drug‐sniffing dog and its handler approached Lewis’s car. The dog alerted. Sweeney searched Lewis’s car and found heroin. Lewis was charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress. The officer had lawful grounds to initiate the traffic stop; it is irrelevant whether Lewis actually committed a traffic offense because Sweeney had a reasonable belief that he did so. Officer Sweeney did not unjustifiably prolong the traffic stop past the time reasonably required to complete the mission of issuing a warning; any delay beyond the routine traffic stop to allow the dog to sniff was justified by independent reasonable suspicion. View "United States v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Gaston, an Illinois prisoner, first complained about pain in his left knee in May 2009. Drugs did not help. After some delay, Gaston saw an orthopedic surgeon in September 2010. An MRI exam was approved but not conducted until February 2011. In August 2011, Gaston had arthroscopic surgery. While Gaston’s left knee was healing, Wexford (the corporation that provides prison medical care) delayed approving an MRI of his right knee; one knee had to be sound before treatment of the other. In May 2012 Gaston had an MRI exam on the right knee. It showed serious problems. Another arthroscopic surgery occurred in October 2012. This did not bring relief. Arthroplasty (knee replacement) was delayed while specialists determined whether Gaston’s pulmonary and cardiology systems would handle the strain but took place in February 2015 and was successful. Gaston claimed that the delays while waiting for surgeries reflect deliberate indifference to his pain so that the pain became a form of unauthorized punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Defendants offered evidence that the delays could be chalked up to a preference for conservative treatment before surgery and never to any desire to injure Gaston or indifference to his pain. The district court granted summary judgment to the individual defendants, ruling that none acted (or delayed acting) with the state of mind required for culpability. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and affirmed judgment in favor of Wexford. Private corporations, when deemed to be state actors in suits under 42 U.S.C. 1983, are not subject to vicarious liability. Wexford could be liable for its own unconstitutional policies, but the policies to which Gaston pointed, reflected medical judgment rather than a constitutional problem. View "Gaston v. Ghosh" on Justia Law

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Wisconsin amended its state constitution to permit state‐funded transportation of private and parochial students. Under Wis. Stat. 121.54, if a school district operating within a metropolitan area where other public transportation is available to schoolchildren exercises the "city option," there must “be reasonable uniformity" regardless of whether students attend public or private schools. The Milwaukee district (MPS) has public city-wide schools, which offer special courses; attendance‐area schools, which draw only from a particular neighborhood; and nonattendance-area schools, which do not offer special classes but serve students from outside the area. MPS Policy provides free transportation for high schoolers only if they live two or more miles from their school and more than one mile from public transportation. Students who attend citywide or nonattendance‐area schools are governed by “Racial Balance, Modernization, Overload, and Lack of Facility” rules, making any student assigned to a school farther than two miles from her home eligible for free transportation, regardless of proximity to public transportation. Private schools must submit lists of students eligible to receive busing by May 15. There is no notification deadline for public schools. On May 14, St. Joan, a private school, submitted a 62-name list; on September 29, it added six names. MPS refused to bus any of the students because each lived within one mile of public transportation, and the later‐added students were disclosed after the deadline. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Rational bases exist for the differences in busing eligibility. MPS has legitimate interests in reducing overcapacity in crowded attendance‐area schools and in expanding special program access. MPS students who attend citywide or nonattendance‐area schools are more likely to have to travel farther than students who go to attendance‐area schools. The court remanded with respect to the deadline. View "St. Joan Antida High School Inc. v. Milwaukee Public School District" on Justia Law

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Kanter pleaded guilty to mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, based on his submission of bills to Medicare for non-compliant therapeutic shoes and shoe inserts. Due to his felony conviction, he is prohibited from possessing a firearm under both federal and Wisconsin law, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and Wis. Stat. 941.29(1m). He challenged those felon dispossession statutes under the Second Amendment, as applied to nonviolent offenders. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment upholding the laws. Even if felons are entitled to Second Amendment protection, so that Kanter could bring an as-applied challenge, the government met its burden of establishing that the felon dispossession statutes are substantially related to an important government interest in preventing gun violence. Congress and the Wisconsin legislature are entitled to categorically disqualify all felons—even nonviolent felons like Kanter—because both have found that such individuals are more likely to abuse firearms. The “bright line categorical approach … allows for uniform application and ease of administration.” View "Kanter v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nonprofit organization, “[t]akes legal action challenging entanglement of religion and government, government endorsement or promotion of religion.” FFRF paid its co-presidents a portion of their salaries in the form of a housing allowance, seeking to challenge 26 U.S.C. 107, which provides: In the case of a minister of the gospel, gross income does not include— (1) the rental value of a home furnished to him as part of his compensation; or (2) the rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home. Having unsuccessfully sought refunds from the IRS based on section 107 they sued. The district court granted FFRF and its employees summary judgment, finding that the statute violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Seventh Circuit reversed, applying the “Lemon” test. The law has secular purposes: it is one of many per se rules that provide a tax exemption to employees with work-related housing requirements; it is intended to avoid discrimination against certain religions in favor of others and to avoid excessive entanglement with religion by preventing the IRS from conducting intrusive inquiries into how religious organizations use their facilities. Providing a tax exemption does not “connote[] sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the [government] in religious activity.” FFRF offered no evidence that provisions like section 107(2) were historically viewed as an establishment of religion. View "Gaylor v. Peecher" on Justia Law

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Illinois law requires sex offenders to register with the police. Offenders with a fixed residence were required to register either every 90 days or annually; homeless offenders were to report weekly. Some Chicago officers thought the weekly requirement was burdensome and “steered” offenders to identify a residence. Officers directed Regains to a homeless shelter, which they listed as his permanent address, and to return for re-registration in 90 days. When he reported three months later, Regains was arrested on an “investigative alert,” because other officers had not been able to locate Regains at the address provided. Regains remained in custody 17 months before the Illinois trial court found him not guilty of failing to a report a change of address. Regains sued the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the claim as time-barred under Illinois’ two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims and found that the amended complaint lacked sufficient factual details to give fair notice. The Seventh Circuit reversed, concluding that the claim accrued when Regains was released from custody. The court remanded, noting that it will be difficult for Regains to amend his complaint to allege a policy or practice, widespread enough to constitute a custom and that high-ranking Department members knew of the differing practices and allowed them to continue. View "Regains v. Chicago" on Justia Law

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Based on a 2005 domestic violence incident, Jones was charged with battery. For another incident, he was charged separately with intimidation and being a habitual offender. The court set a joint omnibus date of October 18. Indiana law then allowed prosecutors to make substantive amendments to pending charges only up to 30 days before the omnibus date. Nine days after that date, the state moved to amend the battery information to add criminal confinement. Jones’s attorney did not object; the court granted the motion without a hearing. In January 2006, the state moved to amend the intimidation charge to add language Months later Jones’s new attorney unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the amended intimidation information. On the first day of a consolidated trial, the state moved to amend the criminal-confinement charge (battery) again, to add “and/or extreme pain.” The court allowed the third amendment over Jones’s objection. Convicted, Jones was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for criminal confinement, enhanced by 25 years for being a habitual offender. Jones sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, arguing that his lawyer’s failure to object to the untimely first amendment constituted ineffective assistance. The Seventh Circuit granted relief. Applying the state’s statutes, as interpreted by Indiana’s highest court, a competent lawyer should have recognized that relief for his client was possible and would have pursued it. View "Jones v. Zatecky" on Justia Law

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Washington was driving a vehicle he owned when an Indianapolis police officer pulled him over in September 2016. Washington was arrested and charged with dealing in marijuana, resisting law enforcement, and obstruction of justice. The officer had Washington’s vehicle towed and held for forfeiture under Indiana Code 34- 24-1-1(a)(1) and 2(a)(1). In November 2016, Washington demanded the return of his vehicle per I.C. 34-24-1-3. He filed a federal class-action complaint, claiming such seizures violate the due process clause. In February 2017, the Prosecutor’s Office released the vehicle to Washington. The district court certified a class and granted Washington summary judgment, declaring I.C. 34-24-1-1(a)(1) (read in conjunction with other provisions of the chapter) unconstitutional in allowing for seizure and retention of vehicles without an opportunity for an individual to challenge pre-forfeiture deprivation. While an appeal was pending, Indiana amended the statute, arguably increasing the available process by providing for a probable cause affidavit, a motion for provisional release, and a shortened window for the Prosecutor to file a forfeiture complaint. The Seventh Circuit remanded for consideration of the constitutionality of the amended statute, expressing no opinion regarding the constitutionality of the old or new versions of the statute, regarding mootness, or regarding the class. View "Washington v. Marion County Prosecutor" on Justia Law

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Silva, a Brazilian citizen who self-identifies as Latino, worked as a correctional sergeant for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). His use of force on an inmate triggered an internal review process and led to his discharge. The individual defendants, the warden, the human resources director, and a Corrections Unit Supervisor played roles in that review process. Silva filed discrimination claims against the DOC under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e–2(a)(1), against the individual defendants and the DOC under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, and against all defendants under 42 U.S.C. 198. The Seventh Circuit reversed the award of summary judgment to the DOC on the Title VII claim and to the warden on plaintiff’s equal protection claim but otherwise affirmed. A reasonable jury could conclude that Silva and another correctional officer engaged in comparably serious conduct but Silva was discharged while the other officer was suspended for one day .A reasonable jury could conclude that the warden’s evolving explanations for the discrepancy support an inference of pretext. Qualified immunity does not shield the warden from liability. The Eleventh Amendment bars the equal protection claim against the DOC View "Silva v. State of Wisconsin, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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In 1987, D’Antoni was charged with selling cocaine to a juvenile resulting in her death. While in jail, D’Antoni offered another inmate $4,000 to kill a government witness related to the charge. The inmate went to the police. D’Antoni was charged with conspiracy to kill a government witness and pleaded guilty to both charges. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence of 35 years in prison on the drug charge and a consecutive 5-year term for the conspiracy. In 1991, D’Antoni was convicted of conspiracy to distribute LSD while in jail and received an enhanced sentence under the career offender provision of the 1990 Sentencing Guidelines, based on his prior felony drug and felony “crime of violence” convictions. The “crime of violence” definition included a residual clause, encompassing any felony “involv[ing] conduct that present[ed] a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." D’Antoni was sentenced before the Supreme Court (Booker) held that the Guidelines must be advisory. In 2015, the Supreme Court (Johnson), held the identical Armed Career Criminal Act residual clause “violent felony” definition was unconstitutional. D’Antoni sought resentencing, 28 U.S.C. 2255. In 2017, the Supreme Court held that Johnson did not extend to the post-Booker advisory Guidelines residual clause. The Seventh Circuit held, in its 2018 “Cross” decision, that Johnson did render the pre-Booker mandatory Guidelines residual clause unconstitutionally vague. The Seventh Circuit concluded that D’Antoni is entitled to resentencing even though “conspiracy,” “murder,” and “manslaughter” were listed as crimes of violence in the application notes to the 1990 version of USSG 4B1.2. The application notes’ list of qualifying crimes is valid only as an interpretation of USSG 4B1.2’s residual clause; because Cross invalidated that residual clause, the application notes no longer have legal force. View "D'Antoni v. United States" on Justia Law