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

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Appeal, following dismissal of civil rights suit against judges that presided over plaintiff’s divorce, was frivolous. After her former husband was awarded custody of their son, Myrick brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking damages from the six Wisconsin state judges and court commissioners who presided over parts of the lengthy divorce and child‐custody proceedings. She claimed that, by ruling against her, the judges manifested bias in favor of her former husband, violating her right to due process, and overlooked misconduct by her former husband, her son’s guardians ad litem, and her own attorney. The district court summarily dismissed the suit because judges are absolutely immune from awards of damages for acts taken in a judicial capacity, whether or not the judges erred in conducting the litigation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, calling the appeal frivolous. Judicial immunity is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or malice. View "Myrick v. Greenwood" on Justia Law

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Challenge to sentencing as an armed career criminal, based on Supreme Court’s holding in “Johnson,” is precluded by waiver in plea agreement. Carson robbed a convenience store by pulling a gun on the cashier. After he was apprehended, he pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, section 924(c), and possessing a firearm as a felon, section 922(g)(1). He waived his right to appeal, with limited exceptions; the prosecution agreed to recommend a 3-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility and a prison sentence of 272 months, at the low end of the range calculated by the parties based on a shared assumption that Carson would be sentenced as an armed career criminal, 18 U.S.C. 924(e) The district court sentenced Carson to 272 months as an armed career criminal, classifying as violent felonies prior convictions for robbery and armed robbery. The Seventh Circuit dismissed Carson’s appeal, in which he argued that under Johnson v. United States (2010), none of his prior convictions was a violent felony. The appeal waiver in Carson’s plea agreement precluded that argument. View "United States v. Carson" on Justia Law
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School district was not required to accommodate an administrator, whose disability precluded being “in the vicinity of potentially unruly students.” Brown was an assistant principal for Milwaukee Public Schools until she badly injured her knee while restraining a student. When she returned to work following surgery, she and her doctor stated that she could not be “in the vicinity of potentially unruly students.” Since virtually all students are “potentially” unruly, Milwaukee Schools understood that limit to bar virtually all student contact. It repeatedly communicated that understanding to Brown as it tried to find her a new position. When Brown’s three-year leave of absence expired before a suitable position was found, she was fired. Brown sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, claiming that her disability had never prevented interaction with students and that Milwaukee Schools failed to accommodate her disability. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Milwaukee Schools. All but one of the other jobs Brown identified as reasonable accommodations would have required proximity to students. The lone exception would have been a promotion for which Brown was not the most qualified candidate. The Act did not require Milwaukee Schools to promote her as an accommodation. View "Brown v. Milwaukee Board of School Directors" on Justia Law

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Inmate’s allegation that prison dentist intentionally sutured inmate’s gum without removing pieces of broken drill bit was sufficient to withstand screening. While Dr. Craig was extracting a wisdom tooth from Echols, an Illinois inmate, a drill bit broke. Craig sutured Echols’ gum with gauze and at least one half‐inch long piece of the broken bit still inside, where it caused pain for about two weeks before it was finally removed. Echols alleges that Craig sutured the site after intentionally packing it with non‐soluble gauze and without first locating the missing shards from the broken drill bit. The district court screened Echols’ 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, and dismissed it, stating that Echols’ allegations were factually frivolous. The Seventh Circuit vacated, holding that Echols’ allegations are quite plausible and state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment. Echols sufficiently alleged that Craig’s actions were so inappropriate that the lawsuit cannot be dismissed at screening. View "Echols v. Craig" on Justia Law

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Enhancement for possession of a firearm capable of accepting a large-capacity magazine was appropriate, despite defendant’s claim that he only constructively possessed the gun at issue. After a police officer observed an apparent drug transaction, Cherry and Crews fled. They crashed their car, in which the officers found hundreds of individual capsules of heroin, numerous effects related to the sale of heroin, and a Glock .40 caliber pistol. They also found a 9 mm pistol with 16 rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber, in a trash can where Crews had been observed throwing an object. Cherry pleaded guilty to four counts involving heroin distribution and gun possession, without a plea agreement. The district court applied U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(a)(3), which enhanced his base offense level for possession of a firearm capable of accepting a large-capacity magazine. He was sentenced to 106 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Cherry’s argument that he constructively possessed the firearm at issue as it was actually possessed by Crews. Cherry pled guilty to knowingly possessing the gun, making it relevant conduct under section 1B1.3(a)(1)(A). View "United States v. Cherry" on Justia Law
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Unreliable corporate meeting minutes were properly excluded in tax fraud trial. Petrunak was the sole proprietor of Abyss, a fireworks business regulated by ATF. In 2001, ATF inspectors inspected Abyss and reported violations. An ALJ revoked Abyss’s explosives license. Abyss went out of business. Five years later, Petrunak mailed the inspectors IRS W-9 forms requesting identifying information and then sent them 1099s, alleging that Abyss had paid each of them $250,000. Because the inspector’s tax return did not include the fictional $250,000, the IRS audited her and informed her that she owed $101,114 in taxes; she spent significant time and energy unraveling the situation. Petrunak submitted those sham “payments” as business expenses; he reported a loss exceeding $500,000 in his personal taxes. Petrunak admitted to filing the forms and was charged with making and subscribing false and fraudulent IRS forms, 26 U.S.C. 7206(1). He sought to introduce corporate meeting minutes under the business records exception, claiming that the records would have demonstrated his state of mind in preparing the forms. The minutes included statements bemoaning that the IRS was not more helpful, and declarations that the ATF agents perjured themselves. The Seventh Circuit upheld exclusion of the records, noting that the records contained multiple instances of hearsay and had no indicia of reliability. View "United States v. Petrunak" on Justia Law

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Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), an effective consent to automated calls is one that relates to the same subject matter covered by the challenged messages. Akira, a retailer, engaged Opt for text-message marketing services. Akira gathered 20,000 customers’ cell phone numbers for Opt’s messaging platform. Akira customers could join its “Text Club” by providing their cell phone numbers to Akira representatives inside stores, by texting to an opt-in number, or by completing an “Opt In Card,” stating that, “Information provided to Akira is used solely for providing you with exclusive information or special offers. Akira will never sell your information or use it for any other purpose.” In 2009-2011, Akira sent about 60 text messages advertising store promotions, events, contests, and sales to those customers, including Blow. In a purported class action, seeking $1.8 billion in damages, Blow alleged that Akira violated the TCPA, 47 U.S.C. 227, and the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by using an automatic telephone dialing system to make calls without the recipient’s express consent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Akira. Blow’s attempt to parse her consent to accept some promotional information from Akira while rejecting “mass marketing” texts construed “consent” too narrowly. The court declined to award sanctions for frivolous filings. View "Blow v. Bijora, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit upheld Milwaukee's residency requirement for law enforcement and emergency personnel. Milwaukee’s corporate charter previously required all city employees to live within city limits. In 2013, the Wisconsin legislature prohibited local governments from imposing a residency requirement as a condition of employment, exempting requirements that law enforcement, fire, or emergency personnel reside within 15 miles of jurisdictional boundaries. Milwaukee announced its intent to enforce its original residency requirement, citing the Wisconsin Constitution’s home‐rule provision. The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected that argument. The city amended its charter to require all law enforcement, fire, and emergency personnel to reside within 15 miles of city limits, giving affected employees six months to comply, with extensions available for hardship. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment on the pleadings for the city. Municipal employees do not have a fundamental right to be free from residency requirements, for purposes of substantive due process. Rejecting a procedural due process argument, the court stated that no vested right was impaired. The amended charter does not apply retroactively. View "Milwaukee Police Association v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law

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Taxpayer, having challenged a penalty in a pre-assessment hearing, may not again contest its liability in a CDP hearing. The employer had an employee‐benefit plan with one employee-participant and took tax deductions for its payments into the plan. The employee claimed no income. The IRS proposed a section 6707A penalty for the company’s failure to report its participation in the plan; deficiency penalties; a section 6662(a) penalty, for making a substantial understatement and acting with negligence or disregard of the rules or regulations; and a section 6662A penalty, for making an understatement related to a reportable transaction that was disclosed inadequately. An appeals officer sustained a $200,000 penalty. After the IRS assessed the penalty and issued a final notice of intent to levy, the company requested a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing. An appeals officer reviewed transcripts from the earlier pre-assessment hearing and determined that the Appeals Office had already considered a liability challenge to the same penalty, so that section 6330(c)(2)(B) precluded another liability challenge. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the government. Under section 6330(c)(4)(A)’s plain language, because the company raised the issue of its liability in a prior hearing before the Appeals Office, and participated meaningfully in that hearing, the company could not contest its liability again in its CDP hearing. View "Our Country Home Enterprises, Inc. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law
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Order that juveniles submit to psychological evaluation before court ruling on motion to transfer for adult prosecution is not subject to immediate appellate review. Juveniles allegedly robbed a pharmacy. They were charged with Hobbs Act Robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), and possession of a firearm during that robbery, 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The government sought transfer for adult prosecution, 18 U.S.C. 5032 and moved to have the juveniles examined by government psychologists. The juveniles argued that the examinations—without counsel present—would violate their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. The magistrate granted the motion, ordering that the psychologists “not talk … about the specific allegations.” The district court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an interlocutory appeal for lack of jurisdiction, without addressing the merits. The order did not fit within the “small class” of nonfinal orders that “finally determine claims of right separable from, and collateral to, rights asserted in the action, too important to be denied review and too independent of the cause itself to require that appellate consideration be deferred until the whole case is adjudicated.” The juvenile will not be irreparably harmed by failure to review his constitutional claims now; he can raise these same claims on an immediate appeal if the district court grants the motion to transfer. If the court denies that motion, the government will be prohibited from using at any subsequent prosecution any information obtained during the examination. View "United States v. Sealed Defendant Juvenile Male (4)" on Justia Law