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

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Medicredit sent Markakos a letter seeking to collect $1,830.56 on behalf of a creditor identified as “Northwest Community 2NDS” for medical services. Markakos’s lawyer sent Medicredit a letter disputing the debt (because the medical services were allegedly inadequate). Medicredit then sent a response that listed a different amount owed: $407.00. Markakos sued Medicredit for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(1)–(2), by sending letters to her that stated inconsistent debt amounts and that unclearly identified her creditor as “Northwest Community 2NDS”—which is not the name of any legal entity in Illinois.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case without prejudice. Markakos lacks standing to sue Medicredit under the Act because she did not allege that the deficient information harmed her in any way. She admits that she properly disputed her debt and never overpaid. Markakos’s only other alleged injury is that she was confused and aggravated by Medicredit’s letter. Winning or losing this suit would not change Markakos’s prospects; if Markakos lost, she would continue disputing her debt based on the inadequacy of the services and if she won, she would do the same. Not a penny would change hands, and no word or deed would be rescinded. View "Markakos v. Medicredit, Inc." on Justia Law

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Elgin met Garbutt at an international convention. Garbutt, who holds dual citizenship, moved from Belize into Elgin’s Gary, Indiana home and worked on her successful campaign to become Trustee of Calumet Township. Elgin hired Garbutt to work at the Trustee’s Office as her “executive aide” at a salary of $60,000 per year. Garbutt’s unofficial duties included Elgin’s political campaign work. He understood that he should not perform political work at the Township Office but began to do so. Elgin also hired her friend Shelton, who also worked on Elgin’s campaign. Elgin and Garbutt had a falling out. Elgin demoted Garbutt, docked his salary barred him from attending meetings, and took away his government car. Garbutt eventually began a partnership with an FBI agent who directed him to conduct warrantless searches of his co‐workers’ offices.Elgin took a plea deal, Shelton was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, after learning, mid‐trial, about the warrantless searches. The district court denied Shelton's post‐trial motion for relief. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court erred in finding that Shelton lacked any reasonable expectation of privacy in her office. Garbutt’s document collection, undertaken at the direction of the FBI, violated her Fourth Amendment rights. No warrant would have issued without the information gathered as a result of the unlawful searches; the evidence obtained from the search authorized by that warrant should have been suppressed. View "United States v. Shelton" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Grzegorczyk hired two men to kill his ex-wife and others whom he deemed responsible for his divorce and the loss of custody of his son. The men he hired were undercover law enforcement officers. During a final meeting, Grzegorczyk gave the undercover officers $3,000 in cash, and showed them pictures, $45,000 in cash that he intended to pay upon completion of the murders, a semi-automatic handgun, and ammunition. Grzegorczyk was arrested.In 2014, Grzegorczyk pled guilty to murder-for-hire, 18 U.S.C. 1958(a) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)., Grzegorczyk waived the right to “all appellate issues that might have been available if he had exercised his right to trial”; he could only appeal the validity of his guilty plea and the sentence imposed. The district court imposed a within-Guidelines sentence of 151 months, with consecutive 60 months for the firearm offense, which was affirmed on appeal. The Supreme Court then invalidated the definition of a “violent felony” under the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) (Johnson decision), later extending the holding to section 924(c)'s residual clause definition of “crime of violence.”Grzegorczyk sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255 from his 924(c) conviction. The district court denied relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Grzegorczyk has long unconditionally waived his right to contest the validity of his plea agreement and the legal sufficiency of the 924(c) charge. View "Grzegorczyk v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Guenther was convicted of possessing a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The Armed Career Criminal Act increases the penalty for that offense to a 15-year minimum and a maximum of life in prison if the defendant has three prior convictions for a “violent felony.” Guenther’s PSR identified two convictions for first-degree burglary (1990 and 1992), second-degree burglary (1986), and kidnapping (1990), all under Minnesota law. The judge applied ACCA and sentenced him to 327 months. His Eighth Circuit direct appeal failed as did his petition for collateral review under 28 U.S.C. 2255. In 2017, incarcerated in Wisconsin, Guenther sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241, arguing that his Minnesota burglary convictions are not “violent felonies”The Seventh Circuit granted habeas relief. A section 2255 motion in the sentencing court is normally the exclusive method to collaterally attack a federal sentence, but the “saving clause,” 2255(e) provides a limited exception, allowing a prisoner to seek section 2241 relief in the district of confinement if “the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” The Seventh Circuit applies the exception when the prisoner relies on an intervening statutory decision announcing a new, retroactive rule that could not have been invoked in his first section 2255 motion and the error is serious enough to amount to a miscarriage of justice. Guenther’s Minnesota burglary convictions are not ACCA predicates under Seventh Circuit law. View "Guenther v. Marske" on Justia Law

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Triplett pleaded guilty to three charges of human trafficking, pimping and pandering, and possession of a firearm by a felon, in exchange for the dismissal of 17 charges (including attempted first-degree homicide and kidnapping), which were to be “read-in” at sentencing (essentially allowing the judge to consider them as relevant conduct), Triplett’s total sentencing exposure was reduced from 354 years to a maximum of 47.5 years. The judge confirmed with defense counsel that the dismissed charges would be read-in. Defense counsel noted that Triplett did not admit the truth of the charges. In signing his plea agreement, Triplett acknowledged that “although the judge may consider read-in charges when imposing sentence, the maximum penalty will not be increased.” The judge ordered Triplett to serve 11 years in prison followed by nine years of supervision.Triplett unsuccessfully moved to withdraw his plea. Without conducting a hearing, the court determined that even if Triplett was given incorrect advice about the read-charges, Triplett was not prejudiced. The plea questionnaire and waiver of rights warned Triplett that the court could consider those charges. The court also represented that it had not considered the read-in charges at sentencing. Wisconsin's Court of Appeals and Supreme Court upheld the decision. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of federal habeas relief. The Wisconsin court’s rejection of Triplett's ineffectiveness claim rests on an adequate, independent state ground--Triplett’s failure to allege objective facts in support of his claim of prejudice. View "Triplett v. McDermott" on Justia Law

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Five South Bend officers were assigned to an area of the city that was considered to be a “hot spot.” One drove a fully marked police vehicle. Two officers patrolled in an unmarked car without sirens or lights; two sat in an unmarked car that had sirens and lights. Around 4:30 am, the patrolling car radioed over the tactical channel that they planned to stop a speeding car. The remaining officers promptly acknowledged the report but did not indicate that the traffic stop was an emergency, nor did they request assistance from other officers.After hearing the exchanges, knowing that no one was requesting assistance, Gorny (two miles away) roared through a residential neighborhood at 78 miles per hour, disregarding the 30 mph speed limit, with infrequent use of lights or sirens. On Western Avenue, he accelerated up to 98 mph and reached the Kaley Avenue intersection with an obstructed view. Disregarding the red light, Gorny sped across and crashed into Flores’s car, killing her.The district court dismissed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 substantive due process action. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Flores’s allegations plausibly state claims against Gorny and the city. The law does not provide a shield against constitutional violations for state actors who consciously take extreme, obvious risks. Flores’s complaint plausibly alleges that the city acted with deliberate indifference by failing to address the known recklessness of its officers as a group and Gorny in particular. View "Flores v. City of South Bend" on Justia Law

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After an allegation that Bush had choked his son, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) began an investigation. Bush’s then-wife, Erika, obtained a court order suspending Bush’s parenting time. Bush filed a federal lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on behalf of himself and his children, alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and claiming that DCFS employees’ conduct set off events culminating in a state court order infringing on his and his kids’ right to familial association.The district court dismissed, finding that Bush and his children lacked standing to bring a constitutional challenge to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and that the Younger abstention doctrine barred the court from ruling on the remaining constitutional claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.. Bush failed to allege facts sufficient to establish standing for his First Amendment claim. Adhering to principles of equity, comity, and federalism, the court concluded that the district court was right to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over the remaining claims. View "J.B. v. Woodard" on Justia Law

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S.B., a 16-year-old girl from Illinois, communicated on the internet with Fredrickson, a 27-year-old man from Iowa. Their conversations turned sexually explicit. S.B., at Fredrickson’s request, sent him images and videos of herself. When Fredrickson sent flowers to S.B.’s high school, her mother became suspicious and discovered the relationship, later contacting police. A search of Fredrickson’s cell phone revealed he had been recording the videos and saving the images. Fredrickson possessed at least 15 sexually explicit videos of S.B. on his phone.Fredrickson was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor under 18 U.S.C. 2251(a): Any person who employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in … any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct … shall be punished … if that visual depiction was produced or transmitted using materials that have been mailed, shipped, or transported in or affecting interstate" commerce.Fredrickson unsuccessfully moved to dismiss, arguing that under Illinois and Iowa state laws, he could have lawfully viewed S.B. making the videos in person and that 2251(a) criminalized protected expressive speech. Convicted, Fredrickson was sentenced to 200 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments under the First Amendment overbreadth doctrine. Child pornography’s exclusion from the First Amendment’s protection does not hinge on state law. View "United States v. Fredrickson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2012, Bernard’s mother died, leaving a $3 million estate entirely to Bernard’s homeless, mentally ill sister, Joanne, who had lived in Denver. Bernard and his wife, Katherine are professors at Northwestern University School of Law. Bernard had himself appointed Joanne’s conservator and redirected the inheritance to himself. Bernard’s cousin, Wrigley, found Joanne in New York. Bernard and Wrigley each sought appointment as guardian of Joanne’s property in New York.Joanne’s guardian ad litem discovered that Bernard had diverted much of Joanne’s inheritance and hired Kerr, a forensic accountant, to investigate Bernard and Pinto, Joanne’s representative payee, who had withdrawn funds from her account. The Denver probate court suspended Bernard as Joanne’s conservator and ordered that Pinto provide a complete accounting, Wrigley allegedly made threats against Katherine. The Denver court entered a $4.5 million judgment against Bernard.Katherine wrote to the New York court on Northwestern University letterhead, alleging “misappropriation of Joanne’s assets by Pinto.” Wrigley then called the deans at Northwestern’ to complain about Katherine.Katherine sued Wrigley and Kerr, alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court rejected Katherine’s attempt to fire her attorney and present her own closing argument and accused Katherine of “gamesmanship,” stating that it could not “trust [her] to follow the rules” based on her performance as a witness. Her attorney claimed to be physically ill and the judge then granted a continuance. Ultimately, the jury rejected Katherine’s claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the court’s evidentiary decisions, including overruling Katherine’s objections to closing arguments, and to jury instructions. View "Black v. Wrigley" on Justia Law

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Juarez Rogers, who lived in Illinois, was arrested for murder in Griffith, Indiana. A confidential informant in that investigation reported to police in nearby Hobart, Indiana, that Juarez’s sons, including Cortez Juarez Rogers, were threatening him. Hobart Officers investigated and found an Illinois State ID photo and associated information for an Illinois resident, Cortez Javan Rogers, who had never been to Indiana. Believing, mistakenly, that Javan was the individual about whom the informant had complained, an officer attested that he had communicated a threat to commit a felony. An Indiana judge issued an arrest warrant that was listed in a database available to law enforcement officers in other states. A Chicago police officer subsequently stopped a car in which Javan was a passenger, consulted a database, and arrested him. An Illinois judge denied bail and remanded Javan pending extradition to Indiana. The following evening Indiana moved to correct the warrant information. Chicago officers immediately released Javan, who sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Hobart officers did not purposefully engage in any activity in Illinois or direct any action in Illinois that would cause them to reasonably anticipate that they would be haled into Illinois courts. The exercise of personal jurisdiction over them would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. None of the supposed Illinois contacts, considered separately or together, constitute the requisite “minimum contacts” among the state, the defendants, and the cause of action necessary to fulfill the requirements of due process. View "Rogers v. City of Hobart" on Justia Law