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

by
Chen, a citizen of China, entered the U.S. without inspection in 2004. A “Notice to Appear,” dated April 2010, did not include the time and place for a hearing, Immigration officials sent Chen another document, dated July 2010, with that information. Chen appeared and sought asylum; the request was denied as untimely. In 2018, the Supreme Court held (Pereira) that a Notice that omits the time and place of the hearing does not comply with 8 U.S.C. 229(a)(1)(G)(i). Chen (untimely) moved to reopen her case to seek cancellation of removal, as an alien who has lived in the U.S. for a decade. Chen contended that, until the Pereira decision, she did not recognize that she might be eligible for that relief. An alien's accumulation of physical presence time is stopped by the commission of a crime or service of a Notice to Appear. Chen and her lawyer assumed that the April 2010 Notice stopped the accrual of time, but Chen argued that Pereira holds otherwise. The BIA denied the motion, reasoning that the required components of a Notice need not be in a single document if multiple documents collectively provide the required information; Pereira held that multiple notices cannot be combined with the effective date of the first document, but did not address what happens once all information has been provided. Time stops once the alien has all of the information required by statute. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Chen did not object to the charging documents for years, without any good excuse for delay. View "Chen v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
by
Withers trafficked women and girls for sex. After months of abuse, several victims were identified by law enforcement. Withers was arrested and charged with nine counts of sex trafficking. The government proposed jury instructions on four of those counts that would have allowed Withers to be found guilty if he either knew or recklessly disregarded that force, threats of force, or coercion would be used to cause the women to engage in commercial sex acts. The “recklessly disregarded” mens rea element was absent, however, from the superseding indictment against Withers. The district court ruled, and the parties agreed, that the jury instructions would not include that phrase. Nonetheless, at trial, the court’s instructions included this phrase, and neither the court nor the parties recognized the error. A jury found Withers guilty on all counts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the four convictions that included inaccurate instructions. While the jury instructions were plainly wrong, the error did not affect Withers’ substantial rights or otherwise prejudice his trial. The “jury was presented with overwhelming evidence of Withers’ knowledge and more than sufficient facts to convict Withers of the offenses charged in the four challenged counts.” View "United States v. Withers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Falls began serving supervised release after he was released from prison. Two years later, probation officer Hoepker filed a petition to revoke Falls’s supervised release, alleging that Falls committed the offense of attempted possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. At Falls’s revocation hearing, the government presented Hoepker's testimony that she learned of the alleged criminal conduct from DEA Agent Neff and learned that Falls was in DEA custody. Hoepker had listened to an audio recording of a DEA interview and identified the voice of the person interviewed as Falls. Falls objected, unsuccessfully arguing that because the recording contained hearsay, FRCP 32.1(b)(2)(C) and Seventh Circuit precedent (Jordan) required the court to balance the government’s proffered reason for not calling the interviewing officer with Falls’s interest in confronting and cross-examining him. The government introduced the first 10 minutes of the recording. The court concluded that it was reliable and that it was more likely than not that Falls committed the attempted-possession-with-intent-to-distribute violation, resulting in a sentencing range of 46-57 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his 57-month sentence. Jordan does not apply because the probative statements in the audio recording were Falls’s own non-hearsay statements. Falls has not shown that his interviewing officer was an “adverse witness” that Rule 32.1(b)(2)(C) entitled him to question subject to an interest-of-justice determination. View "United States v. Falls" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Barr was charged with a fraudulent real-estate-selling scheme in Chicago. FBI officers discovered Barr was living in Saudi Arabia. Before they could get to Barr, Saudi Arabian officials detained him for unrelated conduct. Barr spent months in a Saudi Arabian prison. When he was released and returned to the U.S., he pled guilty to making false statements to a financial institution. He then unsuccessfully asked the court to allow more time for counsel to obtain government clearance and review classified materials, to dismiss the indictment, and to withdraw his plea. At his sentencing, Barr tried to argue that his time in Saudi Arabia should be a mitigating factor. The court disagreed and prevented Barr from advancing that argument. Barr unsuccessfully sought the judge’s recusal. The judge sentenced Barr to 87 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even if Barr’s U.S. crimes somehow led to his detention in Saudi Arabia, that detention time was not punishment for Barr’s U.S. crime; it was a consequence of Barr’s not paying his debts in Saudi Arabia and did not relate to any of the legitimate aims of sentencing. There was no reasonable probability that allegedly suppressed evidence about Barr’s detention in Saudi Arabia would have changed the result of Barr’s sentencing hearing. Essentially, Barr thought the government would not be able to prove as much loss, which would have produced a lower guidelines range; Barr presented no legitimate reason to withdraw his plea. View "United States v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Cross unlawfully obtained $516,000 by opening accounts at out-of-state banks, then opening accounts at Illinois banks. He wrote checks on the out-of-state accounts and deposited them in his Illinois accounts, knowing that there were insufficient funds to cover those checks, then withdrew the money from the Illinois banks. He was charged with five counts of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344(1). After eight months, the court allowed his appointed attorney to withdraw. While represented by another attorney, Cross entered his guilty plea. Months later, the court allowed that attorney to withdraw, appointing a third counsel. Days later, Cross filed a pro se motion to withdraw his plea, which the court struck, advising Cross that the court would entertain only motions that had been filed by counsel. Days before his scheduled sentencing hearing, Cross nonetheless filed pro se: “Motion To Withdraw Guilty Plea,” “Motion To Terminate Counsel,” and “Motion To Dismiss Case Per A, Mauro, Violation.” At the sentencing hearing, the court gave Cross, his counsel and the government opportunities to address the motions. It denied the Motion to Terminate Counsel on the merits and denied the Motion to Dismiss because Cross had filed it pro se while represented by counsel. The court denied the Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea both on the merits and because Cross had filed it pro se while represented. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court was within its discretion in denying the motions that were filed pro se when Cross was represented by competent counsel who had refused to file the same motions for cogent reasons. View "United States v. Cross" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Wisconsin inmate McCaa, pro se, claimed that prison officials violated Eighth Amendment rights by responding with deliberate indifference to his threats to commit suicide or to harm himself in other ways. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. In 2018, the Seventh Circuit ruled that in denying a fourth motion for recruitment of counsel, the district court had not addressed sufficiently McCaa’s ability to present his case himself in light of McCaa’s transfer to a different prison where he said he could not locate witnesses or obtain other discovery, as well as the effects of his fifth-grade reading level and serious mental illness. On remand, the district court considered the issue and reached the same decision to not attempt to recruit counsel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting the district judge’s "detailed and persuasive opinion." He complied with the remand mandate and did not abuse his discretion. The court noted that, on remand, McCaa did not renew his own efforts to obtain counsel; he was able to “send and receive correspondence, make copies, write motions and briefs, and perform legal research;” his reply in support of his renewed motion for counsel was impressive; and he had recently obtained a GED and now reads at a ninth-grade level. View "McCaa v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

by
Hildreth, an inmate at an Illinois maximum-security prison, suffers from Parkinson’s disease. He takes a prescription medication, Mirapex, to manage his symptoms. As a specialty prescription, Mirapex was not kept in stock at the prison; it was filled by an outside pharmacy. The prison allows Hildreth to keep a monthly supply of Mirapex in his cell. To refill his prescription, Hildreth must submit a sticker within seven days of the end of the prescription. Hildreth usually receives his refill when he has three to five days of pills left. On three occasions Hildreth received his refill a few days late, causing him to experience withdrawal symptoms. His symptoms also render his handwriting illegible, so Hildreth uses a typewriter to draft documents. He requested to keep that typewriter in his cell, which the prison denied because it was considered contraband. The prison provided Hildreth with an assistant to help him draft documents and increased access to the library where he can use a typewriter. With those accommodations, Hildreth has not missed any court deadlines. Hildreth sued Wexford Health and jail administrators under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Hildreth has not shown medication delays were a widespread practice or custom at the prison; he received reasonable accommodations for his Parkinson’s disease, . View "Hildreth v. Butler" on Justia Law

by
Two female Polk County Jail inmates endured repeated sexual assaults by correctional officer Christensen. The County’s written policy prohibited sexual contact between inmates and guards but failed to address the prevention and detection of such conduct. The County did not provide meaningful training on the topic. Near the beginning of the relevant period, the County learned that another guard made predatory sexual advances toward a different female inmate. The County imposed minor discipline on the guard but made no institutional response—no review of its policy, no training, and no communication with inmates on how to report such abuse. In a civil rights suit, the jury returned verdicts for the inmates. A Seventh Circuit panel overturned the verdict against Polk County, determining that the evidence failed to meet the “Monell” standard for municipal liability. On rehearing, en banc, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the verdicts against both Christensen and Polk County. While the standard for municipal liability is demanding, the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict. The evidence did not require the jury to accept as inevitable that Christensen’s conduct was unpreventable, undetectable, and incapable of giving rise to Monell liability. Nor was the jury compelled to conclude that the sexual abuse had only one cause. The law allowed the jury to consider the evidence in its entirety, use its common sense, and draw inferences to decide for itself. View "J.K.J. v. Christensen" on Justia Law

by
In 2016, the Seventh Circuit held that Chicago is entitled to limit sales on the streets adjacent to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, but remanded a magazine seller’s contention that an ordinance requiring all peddlers to be licensed was invalid because of an exception for newspapers. Before the judge acted on remand, Chicago amended its ordinance to provide: It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the business of a peddler without first having obtained a street peddler license under this chapter. Provided, however, a street peddler license is not required for selling, … only newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, or other similar written materials on the public way. There is no distinction between newspapers and magazines. Left Field Media withdrew its request for an injunction but sought damages to compensate for injury before the amendment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for want of a justiciable controversy. Left Field did not show any injury. It did not assert other costs, such as overtime wages or legal fees incurred to attempt to get a license. Because Left Field has not offered details, it would not be possible to conclude that it suffered even a dollar in marginal costs. View "Left Field Media LLC v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

by
Hoglund and Mallot's daughter, A.H., was born in 1998. A.H. twice told her mother her father was molesting her. Mallot went to the police after Hoglund admitted he committed adultery. Detective Holliday interviewed A.H. in 2006. She said her father had her perform oral sex on him. Dr. Butler examined A.H. Hoglund denied the allegations but made strange and incriminating statements. Indiana charged him with child molesting. A.H. met with Counselor Shestak in 2007 and Dr. Mayle in 2009. At trial in 2010, A.H. testified; Butler, Shestak, and Mayle relayed what A.H. told them and essentially said they believed her. A jury found Hoglund guilty. After exhausting state proceedings, Hoglund filed a federal habeas corpus petition, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney failed to object properly to hearsay when the prosecutor asked the experts to say what A.H. said. The prosecutor invoked the medical exception under Indiana Rule of Evidence 803(4); defense counsel failed to assert the lack of a foundation that A.H. thought she was speaking to the experts for diagnosis or treatment. He also claimed the admission of the experts’ vouching violated due process. Indiana precedent at that time allowed limited, indirect vouching. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. Defense counsel was deficient but did not prejudice Hoglund. Even without the objectionable hearsay, the case against Hoglund was strong. The vouching did not produce a significant likelihood an innocent person was convicted. View "Hoglund v. Neal" on Justia Law