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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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In 2009, following a court-authorized interception of phone calls involving suspected drug traffickers, Milwaukee police obtained consent from Cannon’s son to search their home, found $14,000 in cash, and arrested Cannon, based on a report that a government informant had purchased cocaine, and borrowed a gun, from Cannon. Cannon posted bail but was not released because a new complaint charged him with giving a gun to an unauthorized person. Cannon eventually made bail, but was arrested after he moved without notifying the police. In 2011, Cannon was acquitted of the drug charge, but pleaded guilty to illegal possession of the gun, and a warrant issued for his arrest on new gun and drug charges. In 2013 Cannon obtained documents relating to his 2009 arrest and filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. That suit was dismissed as premature, because his appeals were pending. In 2014 he was convicted of the 2011 charges and sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment. In 2015 he filed two 42 U.S.C. 1983 lawsuits based on the 2009 events. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claims as barred by the six‐year statute of limitations and noted that Cannon has incurred four strikes under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. 1915(g), so he may not file a federal civil action or appeal without prepaying all fees, unless he is in imminent danger of serious injury. View "Cannon v. Newport" on Justia Law

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Glisson was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. His larynx, part of his pharynx, portions of his mandible and 13 teeth were removed. He was fitted with a voice prosthesis, and received postoperative radiation treatment. Later, doctors inserted a gastrojejunostomy tube to help with nutrition and a cancerous lesion on his tongue was excised. Glisson also suffered memory issues, hypothyroidism, depression, smoking, and alcohol abuse. Glisson was sentenced to incarceration for giving a friend prescription painkillers. Prison medical personnel noted spikes in Glisson’s blood pressure, low pulse, low oxygen saturation level, confusion, and anger. His condition worsened, indicating acute renal failure. After a short hospital stay, Glisson died in prison. The district court rejected his mother’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit initially affirmed, rejecting a claim that failure to implement an Indiana Department of Corrections Health Care Service Directive, requiring a plan for management of chronic diseases, violated the Eighth Amendment. On rehearing, en banc, the court reversed. The Department’s healthcare contractor, Corizon, was not constitutionally required to adopt the Directives or any particular document, but was required to ensure that a well-recognized risk for a defined class of prisoners not be deliberately left to happenstance. Corizon had notice of the problems posed by lack of coordination, but did nothing to address that risk. Glisson was managing his difficult medical situation successfully until he fell into the hands of the Indiana prison system and Corizon. View "Glisson v. Indiana Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Wright was arrested by Calumet City police, without a warrant, based on the murder of one individual and the shooting of others. Wright admitted to having a gun. At a minimum, he was to be charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, but the prosecutor instructed the officers to wait to charge Wright until lab results came back establishing whether his gun matched casings and bullets at the scene. After being in custody for 55 hours, Wright sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the city violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to provide him with a judicial determination of probable cause within 48 hours of his arrest. The next day, a judge made a probable cause finding. In the section 1983 action, Wright sought class certification, asserting that the city had a policy or practice authorizing officers to detain persons arrested without a warrant for up to 72 hours before permitting the arrestee to appear before a judge. The city made an offer of judgment. Despite accepting that Rule 68 offer, granting him relief as to "all claims brought under this lawsuit,” Wright appealed the denial of certification of a proposed class of “[a]ll persons who will in the future be detained.” He did not appeal with respect to persons who had been detained. The Seventh Circuit dismissed, finding that Wright is not an aggrieved person with a personal stake in the case as required under Article III of the Constitution. View "Wright v. Calumet City" on Justia Law

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Five defendants were arrested as they were preparing to execute a planned robbery of a fictitious narcotics “stash house.” They had been recruited by an undercover agent, posing as a drug courier seeking to rob a Mexican drug cartel. Two of the defendants, Walker and Paxton, were arrested outside of a Chicago restaurant and placed into a police transport van that was clearly marked as a Chicago Police Department vehicle. Task force officers then drove the van to a warehouse, where the other three defendants had convened with the undercover agent for a final pre‐robbery meeting. The three were placed into the rear‐most compartment of the van along with Walker and Paxton. None were given Miranda warnings before being placed into the van. During the drive to the field office, the defendants conversed quietly. Unbeknownst to them, two recording devices had been hidden in the rear compartment of the van to capture their conversation. Although one defendant remarked that the van was “probably bugged,” the defendants continued to converse and make incriminating statements. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s suppression of the recorded statements. The defendants lacked an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the van. View "United States v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Roake, an off-duty Forest Preserve District of Cook County police officer, took champagne to a department police station to celebrate the New Year, allegedly with permission from a sergeant. In January 2014, the department initiated disciplinary proceedings against Roake for his participation in the New Year’s Eve gathering. Roake alleges that hearing officers “upheld the charges” against him, and that he saw the “handwriting on the wall,” so he resigned his job. Roake claimed that his involvement in the party was a pretext for disciplining him because he had previously reported official misconduct within the department: an October 2013 incident involved racial profiling; the other, around February 6, 2014, involved a fellow officer whom Roake believed had been unjustly disciplined. Roake alleges that officials of the Forest Preserve department told certain prospective employers that he had consumed alcohol while on duty, damaging his professional reputation and making it difficult for him to find work. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of his retaliation action under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Roake did not show that he was disciplined for engaging in constitutionally protected speech, or that he was deprived of a constitutionally protected liberty or property interest without due process. View "Roake v. Forest Preserve District of Cook County" on Justia Law

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Lake, a prisoner at Illinois’ Hill Correctional Center, claimed, in his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, that Dr. Jackson, the prison’s dentist had refused to send him to an outside dentist to extract a decayed tooth that was causing him pain. Lake claimed that Wexford, the contractor serving the prison, has policy of withholding medical care to save money. Although Dr. Jackson assured him that his mouth could be numbed successfully, Lake refused to let her pull the tooth and complained to Wexford that he was suffering needlessly because of its refusal to provide him with outside treatment. Lake later agreed to let a different prison dentist extract the tooth. A local anesthetic was used during the extraction, but Lake complained afterward that the procedure had been painful. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment, rejecting Lake’s claims, and agreeing that a jury would have to find that Dr. Jackson had been exercising professional judgment in predicting that administering a local anesthetic would enable her to extract the decayed tooth without inflicting significant pain. View "Lake v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Harper, an Illinois prisoner, sued a prison doctor and a nurse under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for deliberate indifference to his pain following nine abdominal surgeries, the management of his diet, and inattention to a possible renal cell tumor. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants, concluding that Harper had not produced evidence from which a jury could find that either defendant ignored a substantial risk of harm. Harper was evaluated and treated each time that he appeared at the health center, given a treatment plan, and told to return if his symptoms persisted. Harper is not entitled to dictate how he should have been treated or whether he should have been transferred. View "Harper v. Santos" on Justia Law

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Kenosha Detective Strelow received an anonymous tip that an African-American man in a yellow shirt was selling heroin on a specific corner. Without corroborating the tip, Strelow and Detective Beller, drove to that intersection. They saw Beal, who matched the description, talking to a woman in a driveway (his aunt). They approached and asked Beal to identify himself. He did so without objection. Beller then grabbed Beal’s left wrist and Strelow frisked him. Beal’s right hand had been in his pocket. Strelow asked him to remove his hand. Beal immediately complied. Strelow felt keys and what he described as a soft bulge that felt like tissue. It was immediately apparent that neither item was a weapon. Strelow emptied Beal’s pocket, removed keys, tissues, a photo ID, and letters. He examined the keychain’s attached flashlight, which he discovered had been hollowed out and contained four small baggies with a substance Strelow believed was heroin. Beal had no money. Beal was charged with possession of heroin. A Wisconsin state court suppressed the evidence and dismissed all charges. Beal filed suit against the detectives under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court granted defendants summary judgment, stating that “no reasonable jury could find that plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated.” The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the court assumed disputed facts in finding the detectives’ actions permissible under Terry v. Ohio. View "Beal v. Beller" on Justia Law

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Police found Moore’s body in a parking lot next to a bloody garbage can. Before Moore was identified, Officer Blackman told Detective Brownfield that, at 2 a.m., he had seen a black male, 6’1”, 185 pounds, in his forties, pulling a garbage can into that parking lot and exiting without it. A woman then identified Moore, stating that Moore lived with her boyfriend, McDaniel, a black male, 6’3”, 185 pounds, in his late forties. Inside the couple’s house, the officers asked McDaniel if he knew why they were there. He allegedly responded, “my girlfriend was murdered.” McDaniel agreed to go to the police station. McDaniel was placed in an interrogation room, read his Miranda rights, and questioned three separate times over 24 hours. He eventually signed a written confession. McDaniel later unsuccessfully moved to suppress his confession, arguing that it was the fruit of his arrest, which violated the Fourth Amendment. He was convicted. On appeal, McDaniel’s appointed counsel argued only that the prosecution’s reference to McDaniel’s refusal to take a polygraph while in custody denied him due process. Rejecting his petition for state post-conviction relief, Illinois courts held that Officer Blackman’s description of the man pulling the garbage can, which Detective Brownfield relayed to the arresting officers, created probable cause justifying the arrest. The federal district court held and the Seventh Circuit affirmed that McDaniel had not shown prejudice as required to establish ineffective assistance of counsel. View "McDaniel v. Polley" on Justia Law

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Illinois prisoner Bell filed a civil rights suit, asserting unsafe conditions at the prison, and an application to proceed in forma pauperis. The court denied his application because Bell did not attach his inmate trust-account ledger (28 U.S.C. 1915(a)(2)) without assessing Bell’s explanation that prison staff refused to give him the ledger. The court instructed the clerk to “forward a copy of this order to the trust fund officer ... to facilitate compliance.” Three months later the court dismissed the suit. Two months later Bell wrote to the court, saying that he recently received the dismissal order and that he never had received the order denying his application and warning him to submit a completed one. The court interpreted Bell’s letter as a “motion to reconsider” and denied it because Bell still had not submitted a completed application. Now at a different prison, Bell has received the ledger. The Seventh Circuit granted him leave to appeal without prepaying fees and vacated the dismissal, noting that the court had not imposed a deadline for compliance, nor ordered prison officials to provide the ledger. “Dismissal is a harsh sanction and should not occur unless the court concludes that it is necessary because other options have failed or would fail.” View "Bell v. Supervisor Kay" on Justia Law