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Lund and 30 others were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin. The indictment alleged that the conspiracy resulted in overdose deaths of five individuals, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A). Lund pleaded guilty but denied responsibility for two deaths, arguing that he had withdrawn from the conspiracy before those deaths. The district court judge rejected that argument and sentenced him in accordance with the 20-year mandatory minimum (“death results” enhancement). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. His sentence became final in 2013. In 2016, Lund filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 based on changes in the law occurring after his conviction. In Burrage, the Supreme Court held that finding a defendant guilty of the “death results” penalty “requires proof ‘that the harm would not have occurred in the absence of—that is, but for—the defendant’s conduct.’” This but-for causation rule applies retroactively. Lund argued that under Burrage, he is actually innocent of the “death results” enhancement because the heroin he provided to two individuals was not the but-for cause of their deaths. The district court found that there was no statutory basis to find his petition timely; it was filed more than a year after the Supreme Court decided Burrage and more than a year after the evidence he presented could have been discovered, The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even assuming actual innocence can be premised on a change in the law, Lund cannot take advantage of the exception because he rests both his actual innocence claim and his claim for relief on Burrage. View "Lund v. United States" on Justia Law

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The church converted a single-family residence in a Markham residential district into its house of worship. For more than 15 years, the congregation gathered at the house for worship services, choir rehearsals, and Bible studies. As the church grew, it remodeled the house,w which brought the church into contact with the city’s administration through permit applications and property inspections. The city denied a conditional use permit and sought a state court injunctions. The church challenged the zoning code under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000cc (RLUIPA), and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The district court ordered the church to apply for variances, which the city granted, along with a conditional use permit. The court then granted the city summary judgment, ruling the church’s claims were not ripe when filed and rendered moot. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district court focused on the church not applying for parking variances before the lawsuit; that issue is related only tangentially to the church’s claims, which concern zoning use classifications. The ripeness of the church’s claims does not hinge on pursuit of parking variances that will not resolve them. Nor can a conditional use permit moot the church’s claim that such a permit is not needed. The key question is whether operating a church on the property is a permitted or conditional use. View "Church of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ v. Markham" on Justia Law

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Eight men entered a Chicago rail-yard, broke into a parked cargo train, and discovered firearms being shipped to a distributor. They stole over 100 guns. The government claimed, and one robber (Turner) testified, that another robber (Walker), contacted Driggers to sell the guns. Turner and Walker took 30 stolen firearms to Driggers’s store and consummated the sale. Turner received $1,700 for six guns that comprised his share. Driggers was not on the lease but the store was his. Police searched Driggers’s store. An ATF Agent testified that the agents found a hodgepodge of merchandise (some apparently stolen), personal documents and items belonging to Driggers, and a gun hidden in the backroom--its serial number matched a gun stolen during the train robbery. Trial testimony and phone records showed that after Driggers allegedly purchased the 30 stolen guns, he contacted Gates. Before Driggers’s trial, Gates confessed. Gates’s storage units contained six stolen guns. Gates confessed to purchasing them, plus 11 others from the train robbery. In his own case, Gates stated that he purchased those guns from Lipscomb and Peebles; in Driggers’s case, the prosecution argued that Gates had bought them from Driggers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Driggers’s conviction for possession of a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g). He was acquitted of possession of a stolen firearm. The court rejected arguments that the district court improperly allowed testimony about Gates and gave an erroneous jury instruction on joint possession. View "United States v. Driggers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 2007, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) brought charges before the Pollution Control Board against EOR Energy and AET Environmental under the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, 415 ILCS 5/1–5/58, for transporting hazardous‐waste acid into Illinois, storing that waste, and then injecting it into EOR’s industrial wells. EOR unsuccessfully argued in state courts that the IEPA and the Board did not have jurisdiction over EOR’s acid dumping. EOR asserted that it was not injecting “waste” into its wells but was merely injecting an acid that was used to treat the wells and aid in petroleum extraction so that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources had exclusive jurisdiction under the Illinois Oil and Gas Act, 225 ILCS 725/1. EOR then sought a federal declaratory judgment. The district court dismissed the case, citing the Eleventh Amendment and issue preclusion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, “emphatically” rejecting the “undisguised attempt to execute an end‐run around the state court’s decision.” View "EOR Energy, LLC v. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Rainsberger was charged with murdering his elderly mother and was held for two months. He claims that the detective who built the case against him, Benner, submitted a probable cause affidavit that contained lies and omitted exculpatory evidence. When the prosecutor dismissed the case because of evidentiary problems, Rainsberger sued Benner under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court denied Benner’s motion, in which he argued qualified immunity. Benner conceded, for purposes of his appeal, that he knowingly or recklessly made false statements in the probable cause affidavit, arguing that knowingly or recklessly misleading the magistrate in a probable cause affidavit only violates the Fourth Amendment if the omissions and lies were material to probable cause. The Seventh Circuit rejected that argument. Materiality depends on whether the affidavit demonstrates probable cause when the lies are taken out and the exculpatory evidence is added in. When that is done in this case, Benner’s affidavit fails to establish probable cause to believe that Rainsberger murdered his mother. Because it is clearly established that it violates the Fourth Amendment “to use deliberately falsified allegations to demonstrate probable cause,” Benner is not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Rainsberger v. Benner" on Justia Law

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Mittelstadt’s Richland County, Wisconsin land was enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), from 1987-2006. CRP participants agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production in return for annual rental payments from the USDA. In 2006, the agency denied Mittelstadt’s application to re-enroll. After exhausting his administrative appeals, he sued under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 701, and asserting a breach of contract. The district court entered judgment in favor of the agency. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Under the regulations governing the CRP, the USDA has broad discretion to evaluate offers of enrollment in the program on a competitive basis by considering the environmental benefits of a producer’s land relative to its costs. Given the agency’s wide latitude, the Farm Services Agency did not abuse its discretion when it denied re-enrollment of Mittelstadt’s land under a new definition of “mixed hardwoods.” Because he never entered a new contract with the agency, there was no breach of contract. View "Mittelstadt v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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Allstate investigated suspicious trading on its equity desk and unearthed email evidence that portfolio managers were timing trades to inflate their bonuses at the expense of portfolios, including pension funds to which Allstate owed fiduciary duties. Allstate retained attorneys, who hired consultants. The consultants used an algorithm to estimate a potential adverse impact of $91 million. Allstate poured $91 million into the portfolios. Allstate fired four portfolio managers. Allstate's 2009 Form 10-K and an internal memo explained these events, without mentioning the fired portfolio managers. The former employees sued, alleging defamation and that Allstate violated 15 U.S.C. 1681a(y)(2), the Fair Credit Reporting Act, by failing to give them a summary of the attorneys' findings after they were fired. A jury awarded $27 million in damages. The judge added punitive damages and attorney’s fees. The Seventh Circuit vacated and subsequently ordered dismissal. The 10-K and internal memo were not defamatory per se and are actionable (if at all) only on a theory of defamation per quod, which requires proof of special damages causally connected to the publication. The plaintiffs testified that they could not find comparable work after being fired, but presented no evidence that any employer declined to hire them as a consequence of Allstate’s statements. The four lacked a concrete injury to support Article III standing on the FCRA claim. View "Rivera v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Websites like Airbnb serve as intermediaries, providing homeowners a forum for advertising short-term rentals of their homes and helping prospective renters find rooms and houses for temporary stays. Chicago’s 2016 Shared Housing Ordinance requires interested hosts to acquire a business license; its standards include geographic eligibility requirements, restrictions on how many units within a larger building can be rented, and a list of buildings where such rentals are prohibited. Approved hosts are subject to health, safety, and reporting requirements, including supplying clean linens and sanitized cooking utensils, disposing of waste and leftover food, and reporting illegal activity known to have occurred within a rented unit. Keep Chicago Livable and six individuals challenged the Ordinance. The Seventh Circuit remanded for a determination of standing, stating that it was not clear that any plaintiff had pleaded or established sufficient injury to confer subject matter jurisdiction to proceed to the merits. The individual owners did not allege with particularity how the Ordinance (and not some other factor) is hampering any of their home-sharing activities; the out-of-town renters did not convey with sufficient clarity whether they still wish to visit Chicago and, if so, how the Ordinance is inhibiting them. All Keep Chicago Livable contends is that the alleged uncertainty around the Ordinance’s constitutionality burdens its education and advocacy mission; it does not allege that it engages in activity regulated by the Ordinance. View "Keep Chicago Livable v. Chicago" on Justia Law

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Maier was convicted of threatening Wisconsin state court judges in 2006. In 2011, Maier mailed a handwritten letter to the jurors in that case, stating that after being “skrewed” and serving two years in prison, Maier was “going for a Pardon.” Maier addressed various injustices he believed he suffered during his prosecution, trial, and incarceration, closing the letter by encouraging the jurors to mail their questionnaires to the governor’s Pardon Advisory Board with a copy to Maier. The letter did not included direct threats. Maier sent a second letter, encouraging the jurors to contact his state representative or the governor’s office, and signed off as “Your friend from Planet of the Apes Courthouse In downtown Zappenville[.]” Convicted of six counts of stalking, Maier was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After exhausting state remedies and unsuccessfully seeking Supreme Court review, Maier sought federal post-conviction review under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of the petition; the Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ decision was not objectively unreasonable. The statute criminalizes behavior that ʺwould cause a reasonable person under the same circumstances to suffer serious emotional distress, so failing to introduce evidence of non-jurors’ impressions could not have harmed Maierʹs defense to such an extent that it changed the outcome. The court rejected an argument that the jury instructions misstated Wisconsin law, relieving the state of its burden of proof. View "Maier v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Four men conspired to sell heroin to an undercover officer. Arturo and Enemicio had phone conversations with the officers, arranging to sell 995 grams of heroin for $180,000. Enemicio drove Arturo to the officer’s car. Arturo instructed him to drive to another location, where Omar verified that the officer had the cash. Tomas arrived carrying a firearm and the heroin. The men were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute a mixture containing 100 grams or more of heroin, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846, and distribution of 100 or more grams of heroin. Enemicio, additionally charged for a previous heroin deal, had one prior burglary conviction and was sentenced to 65 months. Tomas, additionally charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, was sentenced to 110 months. Arturo pleaded guilty to Count Two. The court calculated Arturo’s criminal history using his 2009 conviction for manufacturing and delivering cocaine, based on charges filed in 1990, and more recent convictions for possession of a controlled substance and of an altered identification card. Arturo committed the 2016 offense while on parole; he had two much older convictions. His advisory range was 100-125 months, with a statutory mandatory minimum of 60 months. Arturo argued, under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), that the calculation “over-represented” his criminal history due to the time between the 1990 crime and his conviction, that his co-defendants played a larger role in the conspiracy, and a lower sentence would avoid a disparity between his sentence and Enemicio’s. Arturo also cited age, poor health, low likelihood of recidivism, and that he would face harsh conditions because his status as a deportable alien would prevent him from accessing prison programs and resources. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Arturo's 100-month sentence. The district court thoroughly considered the facts and Arturo’s arguments. View "United States v. Bustos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law