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

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The case involves a class action lawsuit brought against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) by four parents who were convicted of sex offenses and were on mandatory supervised release (MSR). The plaintiffs challenged an IDOC policy that restricts contact between a parent convicted of a sex offense and their minor child while the parent is on MSR. The plaintiffs argued that this policy violates their Fourteenth Amendment rights to procedural and substantive due process.The district court upheld the policy, with two exceptions. It ruled that the policy's ban on written communications was unconstitutional and that IDOC must allow a parent to submit a written communication addressed to their child for review and decision within seven calendar days. The plaintiffs appealed, challenging the policy's restrictions on phone and in-person contact.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court agreed with the district court that the policy does not violate procedural due process. However, it held that the policy's ban on phone contact violates substantive due process. The court found that call monitoring is a ready alternative to the phone-contact ban that accommodates the plaintiffs’ right to enjoy the companionship of their children at a de minimis cost to IDOC’s penological interests. View "Montoya v. Jeffreys" on Justia Law

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The case involves Songie Adebiyi, a former Vice President of Student Services at South Suburban College in Illinois, who was terminated in 2019 due to alleged performance issues. Adebiyi claimed that her termination was in retaliation for filing a charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights. She sued the college and its president, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as breach of contract.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment to the college and its president, ruling that Adebiyi failed to show a causal link between her charge of discrimination and her termination. The court found that the evidence did not support Adebiyi’s retaliation claim. Adebiyi appealed the decision, arguing that the district court erred in dismissing her Title VII retaliation claim and abused its discretion when it denied her motion to amend the complaint and seek more discovery.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. The appellate court agreed with the lower court's finding that Adebiyi failed to demonstrate a causal link between her protected activity and the adverse employment action. The court found no evidence of pretext in the college's reasons for termination or suspicious timing between Adebiyi's filing of her EEOC and IDHR charge and her termination. The court also found no abuse of discretion in the district court's denial of Adebiyi's motion to file an amended complaint and take additional discovery. View "Adebiyi v. South Suburban College" on Justia Law

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On July 4, 2021, Gavin Wallmow was arrested for violating his probation and was taken to Oneida County jail. During his booking, Wallmow denied any suicidal tendencies or mental health issues. Two days later, Wallmow's probation officer visited him and noticed a change in his behavior, including him hitting himself and expressing "demonic" thoughts. The officer reported this to a corrections officer at the jail, who then informed her superior. Despite these reports, Wallmow was observed behaving normally during routine checks. On July 8, Wallmow was found unresponsive in his cell, having committed suicide. His estate brought a series of constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the jailers failed to protect Wallmow from himself.The United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin granted summary judgment to the defendants, concluding that the record did not support an inference that any defendant knew Wallmow faced a serious risk of harm. The court also found no reason to think the County's policies were inadequate, given the absence of any pattern of suicides to put it on notice.Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court found that the jail's employees had taken reasonable precautions, including checking on Wallmow at least 37 times per day. The court also noted that Wallmow had thrice disavowed any risk of suicide, and nothing indicated otherwise after his talk with his probation officer. The court concluded that the jail's actions complied with the Constitution's requirements. View "Estate of Wallmow v. Oneida County, Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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The case involves Circle City Broadcasting I, LLC, a local television broadcasting network operating in Indianapolis, which owns two local television stations—WISH-TV and WNDY. The company is majority-owned by DuJuan McCoy, a Black man. The dispute arose when DISH and DirecTV Network declined to pay broadcast fees to Circle City for rights to carry the company’s two Indianapolis-based television stations. Circle City alleged that the decisions reflected discrimination against its majority owner, DuJuan McCoy, and thus discrimination against the company itself.Previously, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana entered summary judgment for DISH and DirecTV, concluding that Circle City failed to identify evidence permitting a jury to find that the decisions not to pay the broadcast fees reflected anything other than lawful business choices responsive to dynamics of the television broadcast market.The United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that Circle City failed to produce evidence that would allow a jury to find that DISH or DirecTV's conduct during the contractual negotiations reflected racial discrimination. The court concluded that DISH and DirecTV declined to pay fees for rights to broadcast WISH and WNDY because Circle City—unlike Nexstar—as the new owner of both stations lacked the market power to demand the fees. The court also found that Circle City fell short of demonstrating any pretext in DISH and DirecTV’s explanations for choosing not to pay retransmission fees. View "Circle City Broadcasting I, LLC v. DISH Network L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Bryant D. Aron was indicted by a grand jury for possession of a firearm and ammunition as a felon, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Initially, Aron agreed to plead guilty under a binding plea agreement, which recommended a sentence of 96 months' imprisonment. However, the district court refused to accept this sentencing recommendation. As the plea agreement was binding, Aron was given the option to withdraw his guilty plea, which he did. Instead of negotiating a different plea agreement, Aron chose to proceed to trial. He was convicted by a jury and sentenced to the statutory maximum of 120 months' imprisonment.The district court's refusal to accept the sentencing recommendation in the plea agreement led to Aron's decision to withdraw his guilty plea and proceed to trial. After his conviction and sentencing, Aron appealed, raising several challenges to the indictment and the plea and sentencing process. He argued that the indictment failed to include a known and necessary element, that he had good cause for not raising this objection in the district court, and that the deficiency in the indictment was either structural error or met the plain error standard.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected Aron's arguments. The court found that the indictment was not defective and that Aron had failed to raise his objection in a timely manner. The court also found that Aron had not demonstrated good cause for his failure to raise the objection pretrial. Therefore, the court did not conduct a plain error review of his claim.Aron also challenged the district court's rejection of his binding plea agreement. He argued that the court had improperly inserted itself into the plea negotiation process, failed to provide a sound reason for rejecting the plea agreement, and did not provide enough notice of its rejection of the plea agreement. The Court of Appeals rejected these arguments as well, affirming the decision of the district court. View "USA v. Aron" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The case involves plaintiffs Tabatha Washington and Donte Howard who were charged with first-degree murder. They were detained for over a year before being acquitted. They then filed a suit against the City of Chicago and three police detectives, alleging unlawful pretrial detention under the Fourth Amendment and malicious prosecution under Illinois law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.Previously, the Circuit Court of Cook County had found probable cause to detain both plaintiffs without bail. A few weeks later, a grand jury indicted them on charges of first-degree murder, including a felony-murder theory premised on felony mob action. The plaintiffs argued that the detectives deliberately misled judges and the grand jury to secure these determinations of probable cause.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that even if the detectives' alleged misrepresentations and omissions were accepted as true, the prosecutors' independent fact-gathering and the remaining undisputed evidence still supported probable cause to detain the plaintiffs. Therefore, the judicial determinations of probable cause were presumed to be valid, and the pretrial detention of the plaintiffs did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The court also held that the plaintiffs' malicious prosecution claims failed for the same reason. View "Washington v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The case involves Jacob Lickers, who was convicted for transporting and possessing child pornography. The conviction was based on evidence found on Lickers' devices, which were seized during a traffic stop and subsequent arrest for drug possession. The initial search of the devices was authorized by a state court warrant, which later suppressed the evidence due to the unconstitutionality of the initial stop and arrest. However, the case was referred to federal authorities who conducted a second search of the devices under a federal warrant. The federal warrant application did not mention the state court's suppression ruling.In the lower courts, Lickers' attorney challenged the constitutionality of the initial stop and arrest, and the adequacy of the state search warrant. The state court agreed, suppressing all evidence seized during the stop and any statements made by Lickers. The state charges were subsequently dismissed. However, in the federal court, the same arguments were unsuccessful. Lickers pleaded guilty, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The district court sentenced him to concurrent terms of 132 months' imprisonment on each count.In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit, Lickers argued that his trial and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to argue that the federal agent acted in bad faith by omitting the state court's suppression ruling from the federal warrant application. The court disagreed, finding that the link between the state court's suppression ruling and the federal warrant application was too attenuated to obligate the attorneys to explore the possibility of bad faith. The court affirmed the district court's denial of relief. View "Lickers v. United States" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Anthony Gay, a convicted felon, who was found guilty of possessing firearms and ammunition, both of which he was prohibited from possessing due to his prior felony convictions. Gay was a passenger in a car that was stopped by the police, and upon being pursued, he fled on foot. The police testified that they found a gun where Gay had fallen and later discovered bullets in a motel room he had rented. Gay was subsequently indicted and convicted on one firearms count and one ammunition count, leading to a sentence of 84 months' imprisonment on each count, to run concurrently, plus three years' supervised release.Previously, Gay had contested the admissibility of the bullets found in the motel room, arguing that their discovery violated his Fourth Amendment rights. However, the district court denied his motion to suppress the bullets, stating that Gay's right to occupy the room had expired, the motel manager had found the bullets before the police were involved, and the manager had the right to admit the police under state law. Furthermore, the court noted that Gay, being on parole, had a diminished expectation of privacy.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Gay argued that the evidence did not support his conviction on the firearms charge, suggesting that the weapon may have been planted. However, the court found that the evidence, including the bullets found in the motel room, supported the firearms charge. The court also dismissed Gay's argument that the reduction of two weeks in preparation time for his second trial was prejudicial, stating that the parties had just been through a trial and the evidence had been assembled.Gay also contended that the prosecution was unconstitutional, arguing that the Second Amendment permits persons with felony convictions to possess firearms and ammunition. However, the court affirmed the lower court's decision, citing precedents that upheld the validity of "longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons." The court concluded that Gay, having been convicted of 22 felonies and being on parole, did not fit the description of a "law-abiding, responsible citizen" who has a constitutional right to possess firearms. View "United States v. Gay" on Justia Law

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The case involves two defendants, Christopher Yates and Shawn Connelly, who were convicted for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. The conspiracy operated out of Macomb, Illinois, and lasted thirteen months, from January 2019 to February 2020. Yates supplied the drugs, initially from an unknown source in Joliet, Illinois, with alleged Mexican cartel connections. After the arrest of that supplier, Yates sought a new source. Connelly was among the distributors. The government conducted one seizure and nine controlled buys from members of the conspiracy during its investigation.In the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, both defendants pleaded guilty without a plea agreement. The main dispute at Yates’s sentencing was the classification of the methamphetamine attributable to him as “ice” or “actual” (i.e., pure) methamphetamine, as opposed to its generic variant. The district court found that all 737.1 grams of methamphetamine for which the conspiracy was accountable was “ice” methamphetamine. Connelly raised two objections to the PSR at his sentencing hearing. He argued that the court could not rely on the statements of his coconspirators, Amber Phelps and Jeanna Rechkemmer, for purposes of determining the amount of methamphetamine handled by the conspiracy. He also contended that the full drug weight attributed to the conspiracy was not reasonably foreseeable to him. The district court denied both objections.In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit, Yates challenged the district court’s finding that the methamphetamine attributable to the conspiracy was “ice” methamphetamine. Connelly once more attacked the district court’s calculation of the total drug weight attributable to him. The court vacated Yates’s sentence and remanded. The court found that the government must supply reliable evidence making that approximation reasonable. Because such evidence was lacking, Yates is entitled to resentencing. The court affirmed Connelly’s sentence. View "United States v. Yates" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The case involves two defendants, Christopher Yates and Shawn Connelly, who were convicted for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. The conspiracy operated out of Macomb, Illinois, and lasted thirteen months, from January 2019 to February 2020. Yates supplied the methamphetamine, initially purchasing the drugs from an unknown source in Joliet, Illinois, with alleged Mexican cartel connections. After the arrest of that supplier, Yates sought out a new source. Connelly was among the distributors.The United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois sentenced both defendants. Yates argued that the government failed to prove the purity of all the methamphetamine involved in the conspiracy, having only tested a small, unrepresentative amount. Connelly argued that the court should not have relied on his coconspirators’ statements to calculate the total drug weight, and that the full weight was not reasonably foreseeable to him. The district court rejected both arguments and sentenced Yates to 168 months in prison and Connelly to 188 months’ imprisonment.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated Yates’s sentence and remanded the case. The court found that the government did not provide reliable evidence to support the district court's finding that the conspiracy involved at least 737.1 grams of “ice” methamphetamine. Therefore, Yates was entitled to resentencing. However, the court affirmed Connelly’s sentence, finding that the district court did not err in its calculation of the total drug weight attributable to him. View "United States v. Connelly" on Justia Law