Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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A six month delay between a property inspection and notice of a municipal ordinance citation does not violate due process. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a procedural due process claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court held that the administrative and judicial proceedings available for plaintiff to challenge her citation for growing weeds greater than 10 inches tall in her garden satisfied due process, and the accuracy of the city's interpretation of its ordinance did not implicate the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, plaintiff failed to allege facts supporting a plausible violation of her due process rights. The court rejected plaintiff's alternative theory that the city misinterpreted the ordinance's plain text. View "Tucker v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Shellpoint in an action alleging that Shellpoint discriminated against plaintiffs based on race when it prohibited them from assuming the loan of a home that they had purchased. The court held that no reasonable jury could find that Shellpoint discriminated against plaintiffs based on their race where their only evidence was vague and speculative. Furthermore, the requirement that plaintiffs satisfy the outstanding loan payment was consistent with the loan agreement, which conditions assumption on Shellpoint's determination that its security would not be impaired. The court also held that plaintiffs did not point to evidence countering the Shellpoint representative's statement that they never produced a complete application. View "Sims v. New Penn Financial LLC" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Petitioner claimed that the prosecutor made improper statements during closing arguments. The court held that the prosecutor's comment on petitioner's failure to testify was not an invitation for the jury to consider petitioner's decision as evidence of his guilty. To the extent that any prejudice arose from the comment, the clear jury instructions cured it. The court also held that the prosecutor's argument concerning the Gangster Disciples did not prejudice petitioner. View "Clark v. Lashbrook" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Stryker in an action filed by plaintiff, a former employee, alleging a claim of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court, giving plaintiff as the non-moving party the benefit of conflicts in the evidence and any reasonable inferences in her favor, held that there was a genuine issue of material fact about the reason Stryker fired her. In this case, a reasonable jury could interpret the suspicious timing of her firing as evidence that one or both decision‐makers initially found plaintiff's actions in the Vail incident to be tolerable, and that they decided only later, after she had filed her internal complaint, to use that incident as a pretext to fire her for retaliatory reasons. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Donley v. Stryker Corporation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, Pearson, alleging claims of Title VII sex discrimination and other claims, after she allegedly did not get the same chance to resign with severance pay that three male employees received. Plaintiff also claimed that Pearson lost a key email exchange. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's overruling of plaintiff's objection about the emails and the district court's cure -- barring plaintiff from disputing her description of the emails but declining to grant further sanctions -- was sufficient. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the severance-pay discrimination claim where the three proposed comparators were not similarly situated to plaintiff. The court held that there was no evidence of pretext and the misstatement of the standard of review was harmless because the court's review was de novo. View "Barbera v. Pearson Education, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an Illinois state prisoner, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that prison officials conspired to and did violate his First and Eighth Amendment rights while he was incarcerated at the Menard Correctional Center. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part the district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment, holding that no reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiff's grievances and complaints about the conditions of his confinement were a motivating factor in—or even factored into—Defendant Harrington's approval of placing him in segregation after a May 2012 incident. The court also held that no reasonable jury could find that Defendants Harrington or Page acted with deliberate indifference towards plaintiff or otherwise disregarded or failed to act on knowledge of a substantial risk to plaintiff's health and safety. Finally, plaintiff failed to identify any evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, of an agreement to deprive him of his constitutional rights. View "Daugherty v. Harrington" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment in an action alleging claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 42 U.S.C. 1983, and Illinois law. Plaintiff filed suit on behalf of himself and a certified class of similarly situated part-time and adjunct faculty, challenging Oakton Community College's change in hiring practices such that the college would no longer employ retired state employees if they were also beneficiaries of the State University Retirement System. In regard to the ADEA claim, the court held that the district court applied the appropriate burden of proof where the ADEA and the cases interpreting it make clear that a policy may have a disparate impact on older workers as long as the employer shows that the policy was based on a reasonable factor other than age (RFOA); the district court correctly concluded that a reasonable jury would be compelled to find that Oakton's reason was an RFOA; and the district court properly required defendants to prove that Oakton's policy was, in fact, based on reasonable factors other than age. Likewise, the section 1983 claim failed because there was no ADEA violation. Finally, plaintiff's retaliatory discharge claim lacked merit. View "Dayton v. Oakton Community College" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants after defendants refused to provide school transportation (or equivalent cash benefits) to plaintiffs' children. The court held that the record did not establish that the Superintendent or the school district furnished or withheld public benefits on the basis of non-neutral religious criteria; nor did the evidence support the claim that public officials impermissibly determined the school's affiliation on the basis of theology, ecclesiology, or ritual; but, rather, it showed that public officials applied a secular statute that limits benefits to a single school affiliated with any sponsoring group. In this case, St. Augustine declared itself to be Catholic. View "St. Augustine School v. Evers" on Justia Law

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Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. 1983], … until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” Ramirez, who is a Spanish speaker, sued administrators and officers of the Western Illinois Correctional Center under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for alleged constitutional wrongs. As a prisoner. he was subject to the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement. Western Illinois had administrative remedies available. Ramirez did not use those procedures in a timely fashion to complain about the issues raised in his federal action. Ramirez claimed that the existing grievance process was unavailable to him because they were described to him only in a language that prison officials knew he did not understand. The district court held an evidentiary hearing, then dismissed Ramirez’s complaint without prejudice. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Because no administrator or officer of Western Illinois ever informed Ramirez of its grievance process in a way that he might reasonably understand, that process was unavailable to him and he was excused from the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement. View "Ramirez v. Young" on Justia Law

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Iowa closed the Iowa Girls State Training School. Palmer, Director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, subsequently contracted to use the Wisconsin Girls State Training School (Copper Lake). Plaintiffs claim that, since its 2011 opening, Cooper Lake “has had a very high turnover rate of employees,” leading to “over-worked and untrained staff” and has received criticism from Wisconsin judges regarding its “sordid” and “inhumane” treatment of juveniles. Iowa juvenile courts ordered Plaintiffs to be placed at Copper Lake in 2015. Both were 16 years old. Plaintiffs claim that Copper Lake subjected them to prolonged “isolation,” and that they received little or no educational instruction. Both attempted suicide. Plaintiffs also claim they were subjected to excessive force and that staff sprayed them with mace on multiple occasions. Plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for cruel and unusual punishment, excessive force, and deprivation of due process. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of their claims. The district court acted prematurely in deciding Palmer’s entitlement to qualified immunity at the motion to dismiss stage. At the time plaintiffs were allegedly in Palmer’s custody, isolation of pre-trial juvenile detainees not “reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective”could rise to the level of a constitutional violation. On the record, it is impossible to determine whether such a constitutional violation occurred in plaintiffs’ cases. View "Reed v. Palmer" on Justia Law