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

Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Irwin, a holding company, entered bankruptcy when its two subsidiary banks failed. The FDIC closed both in 2009. Their asset portfolios were dominated by mortgage loans, whose value plunged in 2007-2008. Irwin’s trustee in bankruptcy sued its directors and officers (Managers). The FDIC intervened because whatever Irwin collects will be unavailable to satisfy FDIC claims. Under 12 U.S.C. 821(d)(2)(A)(i), when taking over a bank, the FDIC acquires “all rights, titles, powers, and privileges of the insured depository institution, and of any stockholder, member, accountholder, depositor, officer, or director of such institution with respect to the institution and the assets of the institution.” The claims assert that the Managers violated fiduciary duties to Irwin by not implementing additional financial controls; allowing the banks to specialize in kinds of mortgages that were especially hard-hit; allowing Irwin to pay dividends (or repurchase stock) so that it was short of capital; “capitulating” to the FDIC and so that Irwin contributed millions of dollars in new capital to the banks. The district judge concluded that all claims belong to the FDIC and dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, but vacated with respect to claims that concern only what the Managers did at Irwin: supporting the financial distributions, informing Irwin about the banks’ loan portfolios, and causing Irwin to invest more money in the banks after they had failed. View "Levin v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Fortres develops and sells a desktop management program called “Clean Slate” and holds a federally-registered trademark for use of that name to identify “[c]omputer software used to protect public access computers by scouring the computer drive back to its original configuration upon reboot.” When Warner Bros. Entertainment used the words “the clean slate” to describe a hacking program in the movie, The Dark Knight Rises, Fortres experienced a precipitous drop in sales of its software. Fortres sued, alleging that the use of the words “clean slate” in reference to the software in its movie infringed its trademark in violation of Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125, and Indiana unfair competition law. The district court dismissed, reasoning that Fortres had not alleged a plausible theory of consumer confusion, upon which all of its claims depend, and that Warner Bros.’ use of the words “the clean slate” was protected by the First Amendment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed without reaching the constitutional question. Juxtaposed against the weakness of all the other relevant factors, the similarity of the marks is not enough to establish confusion. Trademark law protects the source-denoting function of words used in conjunction with goods and services, not the words themselves. View "Fortres Grand Corp. v. Warner Bros. Entm't, Inc." on Justia Law

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Walton was a passenger in a rented Suburban driven by Smoot, when they were pulled over by an Illinois state trooper. According to the trooper, the two were nervous and gave an implausible description of their travel plans. The trooper decided to extend the stop for 20 minutes so that a police canine could smell around the car. The dog allegedly alerted. Troopers searched the vehicle and found seven kilograms of cocaine. At the time, Walton was on parole in Kentucky, with a condition that he could not leave that state without permission. He was subject to searches by his parole officer. Walton was indicted for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He moved to suppress the narcotics, arguing that he was subject to search only by his parole officer, not by a law-enforcement officer who was ignorant of his parole status, and offering evidence that his license was valid.. The district court denied the motion, finding that Walton lacked a subjective expectation of privacy because he knew he was in violation of his parole and had rented the vehicle without a valid license, in violation of the rental agreement. Walton entered a conditional plea. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Walton’s alleged illegal acts did not deprive him the opportunity to vindicate his privacy interests against a government search and seizure of his rental vehicle. View "United States v. Walton" on Justia Law

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Spencer stopped paying her mortgage in 2008. In Wisconsin state court foreclosure proceedings, Spencer’s attorney, Nora, adopted an “object-to-everything litigation strategy and buried the state court in a blizzard of motions.” While a hearing on a summary judgment motion was pending in state court, Nora removed the case to federal court. Finding no objectively reasonable basis for removal, the district court remanded the case and awarded attorney’s fees and costs to the lender, 28 U.S.C. 1447(c). The Seventh Circuit dismissed Spencer’s appeal as frivolous; the district court did not order her to pay anything. The court affirmed the award as to Spencer “because she has not offered even a colorable argument that removal was reasonable” and ordered Nora to show cause why she should not be sanctioned for litigating a frivolous appeal. View "PNC Bank, N.A. v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a citizen and native of Mexico, appealed the BIA's affirmance of the IJ's denial of his application for cancellation of removal. The court held that the courts of appeal lack jurisdiction to review the denial of discretionary relief in immigration proceedings. The court adhered to the rule that 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B) excludes from the court's jurisdiction challenges to an IJ's application of the law to the facts of a case when the grounds for relief sought are discretionary, and that in such a case the subpart (B) exclusion is unaffected by section 1252(a)(2)(D). In this case, the court dismissed the petition for review to the extent that the court lacked jurisdiction and the court denied the remaining arguments. View "Adame v. Holder, Jr." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after being convicted of charges stemming from his involvement in a document-fraud operation that made fake Chinese passports and other identification documents. Defendant challenged the district court's application of a two-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. 2L2.1(b)(5)(B) for fraudulent use of a foreign passport. The court held that, to avoid enhancing defendant's sentence twice for the same offense conduct, the Sentencing Commission has directed judges not to apply any specific offense characteristic for the transfer, possession, or use of a "means of identification." Because a foreign passport is a "means of identification," the court reversed and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Zheng" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. Defendant's deadline for filing a notice of appeal was July 22, 2013. On July 17, he filed a motion to reconsider his sentence. By statute a motion for sentence modification must be brought under Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and motions under that rule do not extend the time for filing an appeal. The district court denied reconsideration on July 19 and defendant filed his notice of appeal on July 30. Because defendant's notice was eight days late, the court dismissed the appeal as untimely. View "United States v. Townsend" on Justia Law

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Black Beauty contested a citation issued by an inspector of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, but the ALJ upheld the citation. Black Beauty now petitions for review of the ALJ's order again upholding the citation on remand. The court found substantial evidence to credit the ALJ's conclusion that Black Beauty violated 30 C.F.R. 77.1605(k) by failing to maintain a berm on two tenths of a mile of a bench; there was no reason to disturb the ALJ's conclusion that Black Beauty's violation was significant and substantial; and substantial evidence supported the ALJ's conclusion that Black Beauty's failure to follow the regulation constituted more than ordinary negligence and was thus "unwarrantable." Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Black Beauty Coal Co. v. Secretary of Labor, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a police officer, filed suit against the City and the police deputy superintendent who had ordered him to be processed criminally for allegedly driving his personal vehicle while drinking alcohol. A breathalyzer test detected no alcohol in plaintiff's bloodstream but he was cited for driving a motor vehicle with an open container. The charge was dropped after testing of the contents of the container indicated that it did not contain alcohol. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment and state-law claims. The court concluded that, given the eyewitness accounts and the presence of a bottle labeled as containing an alcoholic beverage in plaintiff's car, a reasonable person would have believed that plaintiff had committed a DUI offense; there was probable cause to administer the breathalyzer test with a warrant given the exigent circumstances; the deputy superintendent was entitled to qualified immunity; and plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim failed. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court properly entered summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Seiser v. City of Chicago, et al." on Justia Law

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Goodwill filed suit against PNC seeking a declaratory judgment that it does not owe a prepayment charge in excess of $300,000 under the terms of its agreement with PNC. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that Goodwill owed PNC a prepayment fee. Because Goodwill gave notice of its intent to make prepayment during the ten-year period of the loan during which interest on the outstanding principal was accruing at the Initial Rate of 4.79 percent per year, Goodwill owed a prepayment charge. View "Land of Lincoln Goodwill Indus. v. PNC Bank, NA" on Justia Law