Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Seventh Circuit denied petitions for initial hearing en banc in appeals concerning Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to have qualifying photo identification. The court noted that Wisconsin will start printing absentee ballots this month and that it is unlikely that qualified electors will be unable to vote under Wisconsin’s current procedures. The state had assured the court that temporary credentials will be available to all qualified persons who seek them. Wisconsin has enacted a rule that requires the Division of Motor Vehicles to mail automatically a free photo ID to anyone who comes to DMV one time and initiates the free ID process. No one must present documents, that, for some, have proved challenging to acquire; no one must show a birth certificate, or proof of citizenship, so the urgency needed to justify an initial en banc hearing has not been shown. The state adequately informed the general public of the plan and the district court​ has the authority to monitor compliance. View "One Wis. Inst., Inc. v. Thomsen" on Justia Law

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Officer Sell saw a car turn right from the center lane on a three-lane road and then drive through private property to avoid a red light. Using his computer, Sell saw that the car was registered to McPhaul, whose license was suspended, and that the driver looked like McPhaul’s displayed picture. The driver led the police on a mile-long “slow-speed” chase, even after Sell activated his lights and siren. When the driver stopped and was arrested, a pat-down revealed that he was wearing body armor; a loaded gun was found in the car’s center console. The driver was McPhaul, who had been convicted of a crime of violence. He was charged as a felon in possession of a gun, and with being a violent felon in possession of body armor. While in pre-trial custody, he wrote to his cousin, telling her she could ignore a grand jury subpoena, and asking her to swear that she put the gun in his car without his knowledge. McPhaul unsuccessfully moved to suppress the body armor. At sentencing, the judge applied Guidelines enhancements for using the body armor in connection with another felony offense, and for attempting to obstruct justice. McPhaul’s Guidelines range was 24–30 months and the judge imposed a 24-month sentence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding the sentencing enhancements. The pat-down was lawful because officers had probable cause to stop McPhaul. View "United States v. McPhaul" on Justia Law

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Lane, an African-American, began working as a hospital security guard in 1999. He had an unblemished employment record until August 2012, when a 17‐year‐old male autistic patient started hitting and kicking his caregivers. Health care professionals, afraid to approach the patient or enter the room, summoned security. Lane responded and saw the patient kick a staff member in the back. Lane tried to restrain the patient, who tried to bite him and spit in Lane’s mouth. Lane slapped him in the face. The patient settled down. Lane filed reports explaining why he thought the slap was justified with the hospital and with the Sheriff’s Department, where he had status as a special deputy as a condition of his job. The recipients concluded he had shown poor judgment. The hospital’s director of human resources recommended that Lane’s employment be terminated. After a consultation with the Sheriff’s Department, the hospital told Lane that if he did not resign, he would be fired. He resigned. After exhausting EEOC remedies, Lane filed suit for race discrimination under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e–2(a), and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the hospital. Lane intentionally struck a patient; termination was a reasonable response. “Lane’s effort to put together a mosaic of circumstantial evidence of race discrimination” did “not hold together sufficiently to present a genuine issue of material fact.” View "Lane v. Riverview Hosp." on Justia Law

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In 2001, 15‐year‐old Stacy opened the door of her Dale, Indiana home to Ward, ostensibly looking for a lost dog. Stacy let him in. Her sister, who was upstairs, heard screams. Looking down, she saw Stacy on the ground with a man on top of her. Her sister called 911; police arrived 10 minutes later. Marshal Keller entered and saw Ward, near the door with a knife in his hand, sweating. Keller took Ward, in custody, outside, and returned to see Stacy lying in a pool of blood, disemboweled, evidently raped, trying to speak. She died hours later. After a conviction was vacated for failure to grant a change of venue, Ward pleaded guilty. A jury recommended death; the trial court sentenced him accordingly. His conviction and sentence were upheld in state courts. The district court denied habeas corpus relief (28 U.S.C. 2254), rejecting an argument that trial counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance by portraying him as a dangerous, incurable “psychopath,” which was enough to undermine confidence in the sentence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Indiana Supreme Court’s decision that Ward suffered no prejudice was reasonable. “Against the mitigating evidence counsel did not use, and the psychological labels that were used, stood a mountain of stark evidence against Ward.” View "Ward v. Neal" on Justia Law

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High‐ranking Latin Kings gang members pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and extortion (Zamora) and (Gutierrez) to racketeering conspiracy and to possessing an illegal drug with intent to distribute it. The judge credited Zamora with acceptance of responsibility, but failed to indicate Zamora’s guidelines range, and imposed a 240-month prison term plus supervised release with special conditions, requiring Zamora to participate in job‐training and to perform community service if unemployed. The judge refused to credit Gutierrez with acceptance of responsibility, stating that he had fallen “substantially short of accepting responsibility,” then sentenced Gutierrez at the bottom of a calculated 210-262-month range, plus supervised release with special conditions requiring a mental‐health evaluation, mental‐health treatment, working to obtain a GED, and, if unemployed, community service. The Seventh Circuit vacated. On remand the judge commended Zamora for good behavior; calculated a range of 168-210 months; imposed a sentence of 200 months; and reimposed supervised release. After questioning Gutierrez, the judge, not calculating a guidelines range, reduced his sentence, with “all other aspects of the [original] judgment ... [to] remain in effect.” The Seventh Circuit again vacated. The judge failed to give advance notice that he was considering discretionary conditions; imposed conditions that have been previously deemed invalid; and failed to determine the compatibility of those conditions with 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. The judge failed to calculate Gutierrez’s guidelines range and did not indicate how the issue of acceptance of responsibility was resolved. View "United States v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law
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During a “shakedown” of several cells, Stateville guards handcuffed Anderson behind his back and ordered him to walk down a flight of stairs to wait in a holding area while his cell was searched. These stairs were “covered [with] food, milk, and other garbage, and had been for several days.” The guards refused Anderson’s request to help him walk. He slipped and fell down 13 stairs. He was knocked unconscious and suffered “continuing and permanent” injuries. Anderson sued the guards, alleging they were deliberately indifferent to the obvious risk, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed, reasoning that the risk was not substantial enough to violate the Eighth Amendment. The Seventh Circuit vacated, reasoning that the risk of serious harm involved in negotiating the stairs, strewn with litter and slick from milk, unaided and cuffed behind the back, was substantial. View "Anderson v. Morrison" on Justia Law

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In the 1980s, a wilderness guide, Maine developed and bottled an all-natural bug repellant under the mark “BUG OFF.” She did not conduct trademark searches. Maine sold BUG OFF at craft fairs, by catalog and website, and at trade shows. From 1992-1998, she took orders for BUG OFF from every state. In 1994, Smith & Hawken began carrying BUG OFF in its catalog and stores. In 1998 Chervitz, who later assigned to Kaz, filed an application for the BUG OFF trademark, which was registered in 2000. In 1999, Kaz sold millions of BUG OFF wristbands. In 2002, Maine sought to register the BUG OFF mark. The PTO refused, based on the Chervitz-Kaz registrations; Maine did not then assert pre-dating rights. In 2003, S.C. Johnson filed an intent-to-use application for the BUG OFF mark. Maine’s attorney communicated that she had used the mark since at least 1992. The PTO refused S.C. Johnson’s application. In 2007 Kaz assigned its rights to S.C. Johnson. In 2010, S.C. Johnson began using the mark. In 2011 Maine sold to Nutraceutical; S.C. Johnson’s application advanced to registration. S.C. Johnson sued Nutraceutical. Afte the bench trial, S.C. Johnson asserted that Nutraceutical had not shown continuous use after 2012. The court found that while Nutraceutical had proved that it was the senior user and was using the mark nationally from 1995-1998 and continued sales through 2012, it did “not demonstrate continued sales after 2012, which constitutes non-use for more than one year.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district court abused its discretion in considering the post-trial argument. Trademark ownership is not acquired by registration, but from prior appropriation and actual use in the market. View "S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. v. Nutraceutical Corp." on Justia Law

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GreatBanc, the fiduciary for Personal-Touch home-health-care employee stock ownership plan, facilitated a transaction in which the Plan purchased shares in the company from the company’s owners with a loan from the company itself. It is not clear whether GreatBanc obtained independent advice or a valuation. GreatBanc had been appointed as trustee by the owners. The value of the shares fell until they were worth much less than the Plan paid, leaving the Plan with no valuable assets and heavily indebted to the company’s principal shareholders. The Plan’s participants were liable for interest payments on the loan. Employees filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1132. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The plaintiffs plausibly alleged both a prohibited transaction and a breach of fiduciary duty. View "Allen v. Greatbanc Trust Co." on Justia Law
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Vasquez-Hernandez pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy. 21 U.S.C. 846, and admitted transporting 200 kilograms of cocaine, worth about $5 million, on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel, and to receiving an additional 76 kilograms to be sold on consignment for about $2 million. The district court calculated a Guidelines range of 188 to 235 months’ imprisonment and sentenced him to 264 months, above the high end of the range. Although Vasquez-Hernandez conceded being an agent of others, the district judge concluded that he also had a supervisory role, reasoning that anyone entrusted with $7 million of someone else’s cocaine must have high status in the organization, and added three offense levels under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1(b), which applies when the defendant was “a manager or supervisor (but not an organizer or leader) and the criminal activity involved five or more participants or was otherwise extensive”. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentence as not clearly erroneous. No one can carry 276 kilograms of cocaine on his back or hide it in the glove compartment of a car. Moving any substance of this weight and bulk requires the assistance of multiple people. Vasquez-Hernandez effectively admitted supervising some others for the transportation of the cocaine. View "United States v. Vasquez-Hernandez" on Justia Law
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Cisneros came to the U.S. in 1988 at age 17 and stayed after the expiration of his visa. In 1995, he married U.S. citizen; his status was adjusted to lawful permanent resident. They divorced in 2002. Cisneros consistently supported his ex-wife and the couple’s children and now has grandchildren. He has a history of alcoholism. In 2012, Cisneros committed unarmed robbery, an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), resulting in loss of his legal permanent resident status and making him inadmissible under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), because robbery is a crime of moral turpitude. Cisneros applied for a waiver under 8 U.S.C. 1182(h)(1)(B), which gives the Attorney General the discretionary power to waive inadmissibility for the spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen who would suffer “extreme hardship” if removed. An immigration judge granted Cisneros’s application. DHS appealed; the BIA revoked the waiver. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review, noting that its authority extends only to legal or constitutional issues, not discretionary determinations. View "Cisneros v. Lynch" on Justia Law