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

Articles Posted in Constitutional 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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An officer saw cars maneuvering around a car parked in a McDonald’s drive‐through lane, with Long asleep in the driver’s seat. The car was in drive. The officer knocked on the window. When Long opened the door, the officer smelled marijuana and saw a gun on the floor. An inventory search of the car after Long’s arrest revealed five gallon‐sized bags of marijuana, three bags of ecstasy pills, three cell phones, and digital scales. The government charged Long under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) as a felon in possession of a firearm. Long and his appointed counsel discussed a motion to suppress, but counsel saw little possibility of success. Long pled guilty, waiving his right to appeal or collaterally attack his conviction and sentence. Long then discovered that his PSR recommended an enhancement for possessing a firearm in connection with another felony: possession of marijuana. Long claimed that counsel told him that no such enhancement would apply. The court appointed new counsel, who argued that, had Long known of the enhancement, Long would have moved to suppress the evidence. The government conceded that there was no probable cause, but argued that there was no Fourth Amendment violation because the officers were performing a caretaking function. Long agreed to stick with his guilty plea. The court confirmed that Long understood the PSR and was satisfied with counsel’s work, then imposed a below-guidelines 51-month sentence. Long filed a pro se motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to move to suppress the evidence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the petition without an evidentiary hearing. View "Long v. United States" 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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In 1994 Brown was convicted of four sex offenses and sentenced to prison. His projected release date was July 2009, followed by three years of mandatory supervised release. On that date, the Illinois Department of Corrections did not release Brown, but issued a “Parole Violation Report” reciting anticipatory violations of the terms of supervised release. Brown refused to accept required electronic monitoring; he lacked a place where he could lawfully reside. Illinois tries to find lawful accommodations for sex offenders who wear electronic monitoring devices, but because Brown rejected the device the system did not try to find him a place to live. The Prisoner Review Board held a hearing in October 2009 and determined that Brown had not violated the conditions of his release, but on the same date the Department of Corrections issued a second Parole Violation Report, giving the same two reasons. Brown remained in prison until January 2011, when he was released unconditionally. Brown sought damages for the delay. He did not contend that either the electronic-monitoring or the residential-location condition was invalid, but cited the lack of a hearing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of his claims, based on qualified immunity. As of 2009, no court had held that the Fourth Amendment entitles a sex offender to release when it appears likely that, as soon as he steps is released, he will be in violation of the terms of release. View "Nathaniel Brown v. Michael Randle" on Justia Law

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Delatorre was a member of the Insane Deuces street gang. Rivera, a gang member acting as a confidential informant, recorded several meetings and conversations, providing evidence of at least four murders, 11 attempted murders, two solicitations to commit murder, several shootings, and numerous drug offenses. Delatorre was arrested and confessed to involvement in at least three murders. He was convicted of engaging in racketeering conspiracy; murder in aid of racketeering activity; conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance; assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering activity; distribution of crack cocaine; and possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. He was sentenced to life in prison. The Seventh Circuit affirmed; the Supreme Court denied certiorari. Delatorre moved to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence (28 U.S.C. 2255), arguing, based on his cooperation with authorities, that the prosecutor committed misconduct by reneging on a promise to provide a plea agreement and ineffective assistance by pretrial counsel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of relief, finding the prosecutorial misconduct claim procedurally defaulted because it was not raised in the district court or on direct appeal. Delatorre failed to meet the cause‐and-prejudice standard to overcome procedural default. Delatorre’s pretrial counsel was not deficient and Delatorre suffered no prejudice as a result of counsel’s performance. View "Delatorre v. United States" on Justia Law

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A patrolman stopped a car hauler on a New Mexico highway because a digit on its license plate was unreadable. The officer noticed that a car, secured on the trailer, lacked a license plate. He asked to see its paperwork. The bill of lading showed that the car was being shipped from California to “Juan Pablo” in Indianapolis. The officer checked the VIN, determined that it was not owned by the shipper or receiver, became suspicious of drug trafficking, and received the driver's permission to search the locked vehicle. The officer found 46 pounds of methamphetamine in a hidden compartment below the console. The hauler conducted a controlled delivery to the Indianapolis address. Covarrubias arrived, paid the driver, and drove the car away. Police arrested him. Covarrubias waived his Miranda rights and acknowledged that he paid the driver, that he knew that the car contained methamphetamine, and that he was being paid $2,000 to deliver the car to an associate. A jury convicted Covarrubias under 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 846. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of a motion to suppress, finding that Covarrubias lacked standing because he did not have any expectation of privacy in the vehicle. He had no apparent ownership or possessory right, as either the shipper or receiver and no expectation of privacy after it was turned over to the hauler, which had a key and permission to drive the car on and off the trailer. View "United States v. Covarrubias" on Justia Law
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In 2008, Wenger was murdered after trying to buy drugs. Bullet casings were found near Wenger’s body, but not other physical evidence was recovered. Investigators relied on information from community members and from incarcerated individuals. Weeks after the murder, the state charged Brown, then 13 years old, and Love, 19 years old. Brown was waived into adult felony court; the two were tried together. The state’s key evidence was the testimony of Morris that, while Morris, Brown, and Love were all in the Elkhart County Jail, Brown and Love each confessed separately to involvement in the murder. Both were convicted. After exhausting state court remedies, Brown filed a federal habeas petition, claiming he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his lawyer failed to insist that the judge give the limiting instruction required when evidence of a co-defendant’s out-of-court confession is introduced in a joint trial. The court concluded that Brown had procedurally defaulted that claim by failing to assert it in state court. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that Brown is entitled to an evidentiary hearing and could overcome procedural default of his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim by demonstrating ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel and asserting a substantial claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. View "Brown v. Brown" on Justia Law