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Officer Pearson and other Chicago police officers executed a search warrant for “apartment 1.” There was a problem with the warrant. Apartment 1 did not exist. The building contained apartment 1A and apartment 1B. The officers searched apartment 1A but did not find the drugs and related items they were seeking. Pearson nonetheless arrested an occupant, Muhammed. The occupants filed sued Pearson under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging unlawful entry and false arrest. The district court granted Pearson summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed on narrow grounds. Law enforcement officers who discover that a search warrant does not clearly specify the premises to be searched must ordinarily stop and clear up the ambiguity before they conduct or continue the search. If they do not, they may lose the legal protection the warrant provides for an invasion of privacy and accompanying restraints on liberty. Pearson, however, testified that he did not know there were two apartments and offered undisputed, reliable, and contemporaneous documents confirming his after-the-fact testimony that the address searched was actually the correct target of the search authorized by the ambiguous warrant. Pearson had arguable probable cause to arrest plaintiff Muhammad for suspected drug trafficking, though Pearson quickly confirmed that Muhammad was not the right suspect and released him within 15 minutes, so summary judgment based on qualified immunity was also correct on that unlawful arrest claim. View "Muhammad v. Pearson" on Justia Law

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The police received an anonymous 911 call from a 14‐year‐old who borrowed a stranger’s phone and reported seeing “boys” “playing with guns” by a “gray and greenish Charger” in a nearby parking lot. A police officer drove to the lot, blocked a car matching the caller’s description, ordered the car’s occupants to get out of the car, and found that a passenger in the car, Watson, had a gun. He later conditionally pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The Seventh Circuit vacated the conviction. The police did not have reasonable suspicion to block the car. The anonymous tip did not justify an immediate stop because the caller’s report was not sufficiently reliable. The caller used a borrowed phone, which would make it difficult to find him, and his sighting of guns did not describe a likely emergency or crime—he reported gun possession, which is lawful. View "United States v. Watson" on Justia Law

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) reduced the payment of a back-award that it owed Berg by the amount of an earlier overpayment that Berg owed to SSA. Berg contested this setoff because it was taken during the 90-day period before the filing of her bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy court concluded that SSA permissibly recovered $17,385 of overpayment but impermissibly improved its position by $2,015. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Under 11 U.S.C. 553(b)(2), a debtor (Berg) may recover from a creditor (SSA) an amount set off by the creditor in the 90 days preceding the filing of the bankruptcy petition only to the extent that the creditor improved its position during that 90-day period. The bankruptcy court correctly calculated the accrual of Berg’s benefits as occurring on the dates that she had a right to benefits--the last day of each month that she was eligible for benefits and survived to the end of the month. On May 9, 2014, 90 days before the filing of the petition, that amount was $17,385. Because Berg then owed SSA $19,400, the insufficiency on that date was $2,015. On July 30, the date the SSA took the setoff, Berg still owed SSA $19,400, but SSA owed her $20,307; SSA improved its position by $2,015 during the 90-day preference period. That is the amount that Berg may now recover. View "Berg v. Social Security Administration" on Justia Law

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Irwin is a holding company for two banks. When the 2007–2008 financial crisis began, regulators and Irwin’s outside legal counsel advised the company to buoy up its sinking subsidiaries. Irwin’s Board of Directors instructed the officers to save the banks. Private investors showed little interest and federal regulators indicated that a bailout was unlikely. In 2009, Irwin received a $76 million tax refund. The Board authorized Irwin’s officers to transfer the refund to the banks, believing that the refund legally belonged to the banks. The banks ultimately failed. Irwin filed for bankruptcy. Levin, the Chapter 7 trustee, sued Irwin’s former officers, alleging that they breached their fiduciary duty to provide the Board with material information concerning the tax refund. Levin claimed the officers should have known the banks were going to fail and should have investigated alternatives to transferring the tax refund; had the officers done so, they would have discovered that Irwin might be able to claim the $76 million as an asset in bankruptcy, so that the Board would have declared bankruptcy earlier, maximizing Irwin's value for creditors. The Seventh Circuit rejected the argument. Corporate officers have a duty to furnish the Board of Directors with material information, subject to the Board’s contrary directives. On the advice of government regulators and expert outside legal counsel, the Board had prioritized saving the banks. The officers had no authority to second-guess the Board’s judgment with their own independent investigation. View "Levin v. Miller" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Bankruptcy

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An Illinois jury convicted McGhee of murder and attempted murder. McGhee’s defense attorney asked the judge to poll the jury after the verdict was read. The judge said, “[a]ll right,” but did not conduct the poll; he simply thanked and dismissed the jurors. An Illinois criminal defendant “has the absolute right to poll the jury after it returns its verdict.” Defense counsel did not object when the judge moved directly to closing remarks, nor did he raise the issue in a post-trial motion. McGhee’s appellate lawyer failed to challenge the error on direct review. McGhee’s conviction was affirmed on appeal and in state collateral review. He sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the petition. McGhee’s "Strickland" claims, that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the judge’s jury-polling error and his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the judge’s error on appeal, were waived because he did not present them in his section 2254 petition. McGhee procedurally defaulted his claim that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge trial counsel’s failure to preserve the polling error. McGhee failed to present the claim through one complete round of state-court review. View "McGhee v. Watson" on Justia Law

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Chicago police officers attempted to make a traffic stop after Alberto Martinez ran a stop sign. Alberto fled, discarding a gun. Officer Nunez followed Alberto into a residence, did not immediately see Alberto, and began searching the home. Meanwhile, Daniel Martinez arrived home from shopping and entered the duplex. Officer Weber believed that Daniel matched the description of the fleeing suspect. Daniel ordered the officer to leave and refused orders to put his hands behind his back. Two officers took Daniel down and handcuffed him. Outside the house, other officers indicated that Daniel was not Alberto, the fleeing suspect. The officers nonetheless charged Daniel with resisting arrest and obstruction of justice, but a jury acquitted him. He sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the officers had violated the First and Fourth Amendments and had committed the state tort of malicious prosecution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a judgment for the defendants as supported by sufficient evidence. The objective facts known to Officer Weber clearly support the existence of exigent circumstances to enter the home; Daniel’s assertions essentially amount to attacks on the credibility of the law enforcement witnesses. Daniel’s actions provided the officers with probable cause to arrest him. View "Martinez v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Through a Department of Energy grant, Naperville received $11 million to update its grid and began replacing its residential, analog energy meters with digital “smart meters.” Traditional energy meters typically collect monthly energy consumption in a single lump figure once per month. Smart meters often collect thousands of readings every month, showing the amount of electricity being used inside a home and when it is used. This data reveals information about the happenings inside a home because individual appliances have distinct energy-consumption patterns; researchers can predict the appliances that are present in a home and when they are used. While some cities allow residents to decide whether to adopt smart meters, Naperville’s residents cannot opt out of the smart-meter program. Naperville stores the data for up to three years. Concerned citizens sued, alleging that Naperville’s smart meters reveal “intimate personal details and that collection of this data constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment as an unreasonable search and invasion of privacy under the Illinois Constitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The data collection constitutes a search but, given the significant government interests in the program and the diminished privacy interests at stake, the search is reasonable. View "Naperville Smart Meter Awareness v. City of Naperville" on Justia Law

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In 2010, BRC and Continental entered into a five‐year agreement. Continental was to sell to BRC approximately 1.8 million pounds of prime carbon black, annually, in approximately equal monthly quantities, with baseline prices for three grades, including N762, “to remain firm throughout the term.” Continental could meet any better offers that BRC received. Shipments continued regularly until March 2011, when demand began to exceed Continental’s production ability. Continental notified its buyers that N762 would be unavailable in May. BRC nonetheless placed an order. The parties dispute the nature of subsequent communications. Continental neither confirmed BRC’s order nor shipped N762. BRC demanded immediate shipment. Continental responded that it did “not have N762 available.” BRC purchased some N762 from another supplier at a higher price. Days later, Continental offered to ship N762 at price increases, which BRC refused to pay. After discussions, Continental sent an email stating that Continental would continue "shipping timely at the contract prices, and would not cut off supply” and would “ship one car next week.” Continental emphasized that the Agreement required it to supply about 150,000 pounds per month and that it already had shipped approximately 300,000 pounds per month. Continental shipped one railcar. Within a week, Continental emailed BRC seeking to increase the baseline prices and to accelerate payment terms. BRC sued, seeking its costs in purchasing from another supplier following Continental’s alleged repudiation. The Seventh Circuit rejected the characterization of the agreement as a requirements contract. On remand, BRC, without amending its complaint, pursued the alternative theory that the agreement is for a fixed-amount supply. The Seventh Circuit reversed summary judgment and remanded, finding the agreement, supported by mutuality and consideration, enforceable. The agreement imposed sufficiently definite obligations on both parties and was not an unenforceable "buyer's option." BRC can proceed in characterizing the contract as for a fixed amount. BRC altered only its legal characterization; its factual theory remained constant and Continental is not prejudiced by the change. View "BRC Rubber & Plastics, Inc. v. Continental Carbon Co." on Justia Law

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Koty, a DuPage County Sheriff’s Department deputy, requested a different squad car model. Koty’s physician indicated Koty should be given a car with more legroom to accommodate a hip condition. The Department denied Koty’s requests. Koty submitted EEOC complaints alleging discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Shortly thereafter, the Department reassigned Koty to courthouse duty, for which he would not need to drive a squad car. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of Koty’s claims that the Department violated the ADA when it denied his request for an SUV and then wrongfully retaliated against him for making the EEOC complaint. Koty did not qualify as “disabled” under the ADA and the Department took no adverse employment actions against Koty. All Koty alleged was that he is unable to drive one model of vehicle, which does not affect a major life activity. The transfer did not result in a pay decrease, other than Koty’s diminished opportunity for overtime pay. Koty did offer some evidence that courthouse duty is considered less prestigious but Koty conceded he knew the transfer was a way for the Department to accommodate his hip pain, an accommodation he requested. “It is the employer’s prerogative to choose a reasonable accommodation.” View "Koty v. County of Dupage" on Justia Law

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Miller was arrested after police found him unconscious behind the wheel of his car, which he had crashed into a street light. At the jail, an officer pulled him from the squad car and found a handgun on the floor where his feet had been. A jury found Miller guilty of possessing a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). He was sentenced to 87 months in prison. His presentence report that disclosed Miller, age 31, had 17 criminal history points, with 11 adult convictions, including five felonies: three for firearms, one for drugs, and one for obstruction of justice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the conviction as supported by sufficient evidence but vacated his sentence. The judge incorrectly said the instant offense was Miller’s seventh felony conviction, and Miller’s 17 criminal history points would place him in a criminal history category VIII if the Guidelines went beyond category VI. The miscounting of Miller’s felony convictions did not affect the Guidelines range but received explicit attention from the district judge when he selected a sentence using the section 3553(a) factors. The misstatement amounted to procedural error. Defendants have a due process right to be sentenced based on accurate information. View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law