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

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During a traffic stop, a detective and a police officer worked in tandem to search Colbert’s vehicle and frisk him, uncovering on his person a brick-shaped package later confirmed to contain a controlled substance. Colbert moved to suppress this evidence, arguing that the frisk violated his constitutional rights. The district court denied the motion. Colbert entered a conditional guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of a mixture containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, 21 U.S.C. 841(a).The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The officers had reasonable suspicion to frisk him based on two officers observing the smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle, Colbert’s erratic driving, evasive and nervous behavior, a bulge in his pocket, and unwillingness to follow directions. Colbert had read and signed a form, giving the officer permission to search his vehicle. View "United States v. Colbert" on Justia Law

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Indiana requires abortion providers to dispose of fetal remains by either burial or cremation. Women may choose to take custody of the remains and dispose of them as they please. The Supreme Court sustained this regimen against Equal Protection challenges in 2019.This suit was filed by two women who had abortions and object to the cremation or burial of the fetal remains, which they contend implies the personhood of a pre-viability fetus, and two physicians do not want to tell patients about their statutory options. The Seventh Circuit reversed a “needlessly broad injunction” that treats the statute as invalid on its face and “effectively countermands the Supreme Court’s decision for the entire population of Indiana." The state does not require any woman who has obtained an abortion to violate any belief, religious or secular. The cremate-or-bury directive applies only to hospitals and clinics. Indiana’s statute need not imply anything about the appropriate characterization of a fetus. Nor does Indiana require any woman to speak or engage in expressive conduct. A state may require medical professionals to provide information that facilitates patients’ choices directly linked to procedures that have been or may be performed. View "Doe v. Rokita, Attorney General of Indiana" on Justia Law

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The FBI was alerted to a predatory scheme involving various Facebook accounts and (apparently) many victims, including minors. The perpetrator used a Facebook account under a false name, telling the victims that he had nude photos of them, taken from a Facebook account he had “hacked.” He said he would leak the photos if the victims did not meet his demands—chiefly, sending more explicit material. The FBI tracked the internet address associated with some of the messages to Burns Construction, where Cox worked. Agents went to Burns Construction without a search warrant. An owner agreed to allow the agents to search and image the computer in Cox’s office. Cox was not present. The agents then went to Cox’s home. They assured Cox that he could end the conversation at any time and that he would not be arrested that night. When Cox proposed helping the FBI investigate the broader sextortion network in exchange for leniency, the agents responded that such an arrangement was beyond their control. Cox nonetheless made numerous incriminating statements and let the agents take his personal laptop.The Seventh Circuit affirmed Cox’s convictions, rejecting Cox’s claims of Fourth Amendment violations based on the warrantless search, Fifth Amendment violations based on the failure to give Miranda warning, and Sixth Amendment violations based on the court’s evidentiary and procedural decisions. There was sufficient evidence to support his convictions. View "United States v. Cox" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Moran was convicted of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm for a 2006 Calumet City, Illinois shooting. After the trial, the prosecution learned that exculpatory evidence, including a ballistics report linking the gun used in the Calumet City shooting to a different shooting, had not been turned over to the defense as required by Brady v. Maryland. Moran sought postconviction relief. A state court vacated his conviction. Moran was retried and acquitted in 2017.Moran then filed a federal suit (42 U.S.C. 1983) against the city, two detectives who investigated the shooting, and a crime scene technician who mishandled the ballistics report, seeking redress for the decade he spent incarcerated. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, noting that Moran’s allegation that an Assistant States Attorney knew about the report was a judicial admission that negated an essential element of the claim; prosecutorial knowledge of exculpatory evidence blocks civil liability for police officers. The court stated that even without that judicial admission, the record could not allow a reasonable jury to find that the evidence had been suppressed. Moran moved for leave to amend his complaint. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of that motion. Moran unduly delayed seeking to amend his complaint; he should have known that his complaint contained factual errors at the outset. View "Moran v. Calumet City, Illinois" on Justia Law

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Gan lived in Mexico and worked with U.S. associates to launder money for drug trafficking organizations. One of Gan’s couriers began cooperating with the government and participated undercover in three cash pickups coordinated by Gan. Recordings from those undercover operations and testimony from the courier were central to the government’s case. Gan was convicted on three counts of money laundering and one count of operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business but was acquitted on one count of participating in a money laundering conspiracy. He was sentenced to 168 months in prison.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that a law enforcement expert improperly provided testimony interpreting communications the jury could have understood itself. Gan waived an argument that jury instruction misstated the mens rea required for the money-laundering convictions. The prosecution’s closing remarks were not improper. Binding Supreme Court precedent allows consideration of acquitted conduct at sentencing when, as in this case, the judge finds the conduct proved by a preponderance of the evidence. View "United States v. Gan" on Justia Law

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Oak Park hired Barwin as its village manager in 2006, as an at-will employee. He had previously worked as a city manager in Michigan. Barwin resigned under threat of termination 30 months before his pension rights vested. Barwin alleged that Oak Park breached its contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing by forcing him out of his job to prevent his pension from vesting and by refusing to honor its practice of allowing senior employees to purchase out-of-state pension credits to meet the vesting threshold.The district court rejected Barwin’s claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Barwin has no plausible contract claim for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing based on an expectation that the Village would not fire him or force him to resign to prevent him from reaching retirement eligibility. As an at-will employee, Barwin had no enforceable expectation that he would remain employed long enough to meet the vesting threshold. The district court erred in entering summary judgment on the claim that Oak Park breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing by not allowing Barwin to purchase out-of-state pension credits as it had historically done with other employees. His employment contract entitled him to the same benefits that other senior employees enjoyed “by practice.” A finder of fact could reasonably conclude that the Village had a practice of allowing such employees to purchase out-of-state pension credits. View "Barwin v. Village of Oak Park" on Justia Law

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Huston, a Good Housekeeping magazine subscriber, filed a putative class action alleging that media conglomerate, Hearst, offered to sell and sold mailing lists containing her, and 9.1 million other subscribers’, identifying information. Huston sought statutory damages under the Illinois Right of Publicity Act (IRPA) and an injunction requiring Hearst to obtain prior written consent before selling its subscribers’ information.The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. To establish an IRPA violation, the plaintiff must allege an appropriation of the plaintiff’s identity, without the plaintiff’s written consent, and for the defendant’s commercial purpose. IRPA prohibits the use or holding out of a person’s identifying information to offer to sell or sell a product, piece of merchandise, good, or service; it contemplates a use or holding out of an individual’s identity with the aim of effectuating a sale. Any use or holding out must either accompany an offer to sell or precede the sale, but it cannot follow the sale. Huston failed to allege that Hearst used or held out her identity to effectuate the sale of the mailing lists or her Good Housekeeping subscription. View "Huston v. Hearst Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

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Based on a child’s report that West molested him and paid him for a nude photograph, police searched West’s home and business and found a laptop computer and flash drives that contained roughly 1000 photographs and videos of child pornography. West was charged with possessing child pornography, sexual exploitation of a minor, receiving child pornography, and commission of an offense by a registered sex offender. West stipulated that certain images found on his devices were part of known child pornography series identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, produced outside Illinois, and distributed on the internet. The court admitted those exhibits. At trial, the government briefly showed several images from West’s devices to the jury. An FBI agent testified that six images found on West’s devices were from a child pornography series he had investigated; the government briefly published exhibits as the agent identified each child, without objection. As the prosecutor asked about Exhibit 5E, West unsuccessfully objected.The Seventh Circuit affirmed West’s conviction, rejecting his argument that the admission and publication of the exhibits violated Federal Rule of Evidence 403 on the theory that the content of the images was not in dispute, so their admission was needlessly cumulative and unfairly prejudicial. He also argued, unsuccessfully, that because he had stipulated that child pornography was found on the devices recovered from his home and business, their admission violated Supreme Court precedent. View "United States v. West" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2017 Durham, age 46, applied for Social Security disability benefits, she had been diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension. She had also seen medical professionals about neck pain and heart palpitations. She had been experiencing shortness of breath and lightheadedness and was referred to a cardiologist, who counseled her to reduce her caffeine intake and to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Durham continued to have intermittent symptoms and, in 2019, was admitted to a hospital due to “exertional shortness of breath and palpitations.” Testing disclosed that Durham had no cardiac instability, “no acute problems, [and] no functional limitations.”An Administrative Law Judge concluded that Durham’s diabetes, hypertension, and tachycardia were limiting, but not disabling, conditions. The district court and Seventh Circuit upheld the denial of benefits as supported by substantial evidence. The court rejected arguments that the ALJ relied on outdated evidence and overstepped his authority by interpreting, without supporting medical opinions, the results of medical tests. The record reveals that the ALJ carefully considered Durham’s entire medical history and relied on the opinions of her treating physicians in reaching his conclusions about her physical limitations. View "Durham v. Kijakazi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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Mercado, age 41, used an Internet application to meet “Alexis,” a profile operated by an FBI agent conducting an undercover investigation of adults with sexual interests in children. After just minutes of texting, “Alexis” told Mercado she was 15 years old. For the next five days, they texted, exchanged photos, and spoke by phone. Mercado raised sexual topics, describing sexual acts he wanted to engage in with “Alexis.” Mercado sent “Alexis” sexually graphic and suggestive messages and emojis and asked her to smoke marijuana and drink alcoholic beverages with him. They arranged to meet at a house that was actually an FBI operations center. When Mercado arrived, he was arrested. Mercado exhibited health problems. He was taken to a hospital and administered medication. Later, he was interviewed at the hospital, waived his Miranda rights, and made inculpatory admissions.Mercado was charged with attempted enticement of a minor, 18 U.S.C. 2422(b), and use of interstate facilities to attempt to transmit information about a minor, section 2425. He unsuccessfully opposed a government motion to preclude an entrapment defense. That court denied Mercado’s motion to suppress his statements and evidence obtained in his hospital interview. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding those rulings and rejecting an argument that his statements were involuntary as he was under the influence of drugs when he talked to agents, who coerced his statements. View "United States v. Berrios" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law