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Coleman was convicted for a 1994 armed robbery, home invasion, residential burglary, and aggravated sexual assault. Three witnesses linked Coleman to the crimes. The court sentenced Coleman to 60 years’ imprisonment. Fifteen years later, a group of men came forward claiming they were responsible for the crimes. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated Coleman’s convictions and remanded for retrial. Rather than retry the case, the prosecution dropped it. Coleman was released in 2013; a later judicial order certified his innocence. Coleman sued the City of Peoria and four police officers, claiming that they elicited a false statement from an alleged accomplice through coercive interrogation techniques, employed improper and unduly suggestive identification procedures, and suppressed impeachment evidence. After three years of civil litigation, the district court granted defendants summary judgment on Coleman’s federal claims and state law malicious prosecution claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Coleman failed to present evidence supporting a reasonable inference that defendants knowingly fabricated false evidence, caused unreliable eyewitness identifications to taint his criminal trial, withheld material evidence, or arrested him without probable cause. A vacated criminal conviction does not automatically establish that an individual’s constitutional rights were violated, or that police officers and prosecutors are necessarily liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983. View "Coleman v. Peoria" on Justia Law

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Kenco employed Madison as a quality engineer from May 13 until August 9, 2013. Kenco provided warehousing services to Mars, a global manufacturer of food products. Madison alleges that her discharge followed adverse employment actions Kenco took in retaliation for food safety concerns she had raised with her superiors. Following her discharge, Madison filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), seeking whistleblower protection. OSHA dismissed her complaint. In a de novo proceeding conducted at Madison’s request, an ALJ entered a summary decision against her. The Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board dismissed her appeal as untimely. The Seventh Circuit denied her petition for review. Regardless of whether the agency’s mistake in directing the initial mailing of the ALJ’s decision to counsel’s former address amounts to an extraordinary circumstance which stood in the path of Madison’s pursuit of her rights, Madison cannot show that the Board abused its discretion in refusing to equitably toll the statutory appeals period long enough to deem her appeal timely. Subsequent events removed any obstacle that may have prevented her from filing a timely appeal. After a second mailing and email correspondence, Madison’s counsel could be expected in the exercise of due diligence to take action more quickly than he did. View "Madison v. United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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Guitar Center, which sells musical instruments, created a new brand of woodwind and brass instruments produced by Eastman, “Ventus.” Barrington owns the trademark “Vento,” which is used in relation to instruments it sells. Barrington began using its mark in commerce in 2009 and achieved gross sales just under $700,000. Barrington filed for registration of its “Vento” mark in January 2010. In March 2011, Guitar Center began selling instruments using the “Ventus” mark, with gross sales totaling about $5 million. Barrington filed suit against Eastman, Music & Arts, Guitar Center, and Woodwind. A jury found that only Guitar Center's sales infringed and awarded Barrington the total amount of Guitar Center sales—$3,228. Barrington later discovered that Music & Arts and Woodwind were divisions of Guitar Center. Barrington moved the court to amend the damages award to $4,947,200, the total sales for the “Ventus” mark by all of the Guitar Center owned stores. The district court denied the Rule 59(e) motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Barrington gave no reason to conclude that the jury’s verdict would be different if it were aware Music & Arts and Woodwind were merely divisions of Guitar Center; it found Music & Arts and Woodwind did not infringe on the “Ventus” mark and there was no basis to award Barrington their “Ventus” related sales. View "Barrington Music Products, Inc v. Music & Arts Center" on Justia Law

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McCarty and Parks went to an Illinois Menard’s store to purchase sheets of oriented strand board (OSB). They drove a pickup truck to the store’s lumber shed and found the OSB piles, stacked side-by-side, behind display signs. The display sign at issue was knee high with protruding wooden legs. McCarty moved some top boards from a central OSB pile over to a right side adjacent pile while searching for undamaged boards. Parks did the same on the left side. After McCarty moved a few boards, he tripped over a piece of wood that was part of the display sign in front of the right‐hand pile. The display sign was normally set flush against the stacks, as were the other signs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of McCarty’s injury suit. The open and obvious doctrine applies when “[t]he open and obvious nature of the condition itself gives caution and therefore the risk of harm is considered slight; people are expected to appreciate and avoid obvious risks.” The only reasonable conclusion is that McCarty saw the protruding sign while standing in front of it. A reasonable person with McCarty’s knowledge of the situation would have appreciated and avoided the hazardous condition. View "McCarty v. Menard, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Ortiz-Santiago, a Mexican citizen, has continuously resided in the U.S. without legal status since 1999. In 2015, he was arrested for driving without a license. He was served with a “Notice to Appear” for removal proceedings, 8 U.S.C. 1229(a), that did not include a time or date for Ortiz-Santiago’s hearing but referred to a date and time “to be set.” This omission violated 8 U.S.C. 1229(a)(1)(G)(i). Shortly thereafter, the Immigration Court sent Ortiz-Santiago a “Notice of Hearing,” setting his hearing for November 12, 2015 at 10:30 a.m. In 2006, the Seventh Circuit expressly approved this two-step procedure. During proceedings before the Immigration Judge in August 2016, Ortiz-Santiago sought cancellation of removal. The IJ found that Ortiz-Santiago failed to show the requisite hardship to his stepfather or his own good moral character. While his appeal was pending, the Supreme Court decided "Pereira," which held that a Notice that lacked the statutorily-required time-and-date information did not trigger the stop-time rule, which dictates the end-point of the non-citizen’s qualifying U.S. residence for certain immigration benefits. The Court stated that “[a] document that fails to include such information is not a ‘notice to appear under section 1229(a).” The BIA denied Ortiz-Santiago’s motion to remand and affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied his petition for review, rejecting an argument that the Notice was so defective that it did not establish the Immigration Court’s jurisdiction. The Notice was procedurally defective, but the omission is not “jurisdictional.” View "Ortiz-Santiago v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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At its LASI site, Varlen plated locomotive engine parts in chrome. At its Silvis site, Varlen’s operations included refueling diesel engines. Varlen discovered groundwater contamination at both sites, spent millions of dollars in damages and remediation expenses, and sought indemnification from its insurer. Liberty Mutual denied coverage based on a policy exclusion for property damage arising out of chemical leaks or discharges. Varlen cited a policy provision stating that, despite the exclusion, Liberty would cover chemical leaks or discharges that were “sudden and accidental.” Varlen proffered the expert testimony of a geologist (Rogers) that the LASI contaminants were released because the concrete sump leaked and that the releases were “sudden and accidental” because they were not intended and occurred in sudden spurts when the sump failed. Rogers explained that he had experience working with sumps and had personal knowledge of these sumps in particular. Rogers testified that the Silvis releases were likely “sudden and accidental” because the contamination around the refueling area was too large to have occurred by minor leakage and was “consistent with overfills of diesel locomotives.” Rogers claimed that contamination at the chlorinated solvent storing area was “indicative of a drum overturning and suddenly leaking out.” The district court struck Rogers’s opinions as unreliable and speculative under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. To satisfy Daubert, Rogers needed to explain how the evidence led to his conclusions; Rogers failed to demonstrate that his conclusions were anything more than guesses. View "Varlen Corp. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Jensen was convicted of the 1998 murder of his wife, Julie. Two weeks before her death, Julie wrote a letter disclaiming any intention of suicide and stating that she feared her husband was going to kill her. She gave the letter to a neighbor in a sealed envelope to give to the police if anything happened to her. Julie also made similar statements to a police officer shortly before her death. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected Jensen’s Confrontation Clause challenge to the admission of Julie’s letter. In a 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas proceeding, the federal district judge issued a conditional writ requiring the state to either release Jensen or initiate proceedings to retry him. In 2015, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Wisconsin timely initiated retrial proceedings. Before the retrial, the state judge concluded that the out-of-court statements were not testimonial, curing the constitutional defect in Jensen’s first trial. Reasoning that a second trial was unnecessary, the judge reinstated Jensen’s conviction. Jensen appealed; the Wisconsin Court of Appeals has not yet ruled. The federal district court denied Jensen’s motion to enforce the conditional writ. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that its jurisdiction is limited to assessing compliance with the conditional writ. Wisconsin complied with the writ when it initiated proceedings for Jensen’s retrial. View "Jensen v. Pollard" on Justia Law

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Paz defaulted on a $695 credit card debt. PRA, a debt collector, purchased the debt and attempted to collect but violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by failing to report that Paz disputed the debt. Paz filed suit in June 2014. PRA invoked FRCP 68, offering to eliminate the debt and pay Paz $1,001 plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs as “agreed ... and if no agreement can be made, to be determined by the Court.” The agreement stated that “[t]his … is not to be construed as an admission that ... Plaintiff has suffered any damage.” Paz accepted PRA’s offer. Counsel agreed to attorneys’ fees of $4,500. PRA nonetheless continued to report Paz’s debt to credit reporting agencies, even confirming its validity in response to inquiries. Paz filed another lawsuit and unsuccessfully attempted to add class claims. PRA again invoked Rule 68, offering $3,501 on the same terms as the first settlement. Paz never responded. The court limited the claims allowed to go to trial. Days before trial, PRA offered Paz $25,000 plus attorneys’ fees and costs. Paz rejected the offer. A jury found for Paz but determined that Paz had sustained no actual damages, so his recovery was limited to $1,000 in statutory damages for his FDCPA claim. Paz sought $187,410 in attorneys’ fees and $2,744 in costs, 15 U.S.C. 1692(k)(a)(3). The Seventh Circuit affirmed an award of $10,875, reasoning that Paz’s rejection of meaningful settlement offers precluded a fee award so disproportionate to his recovery. View "Paz v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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Fort Wayne Officer Hartman and others responded to an ongoing armed robbery at a Dollar General store, knowing that there had been several armed robberies at area Dollar General stores: two men would enter the store, display handguns, restrain employees, wait for the registers to open, and depart after collecting cash, cigarettes, and employees’ cell phones. Hartman crouched 10-15 feet from the store’s entrance; shelving blocked his view. Other officers positioned themselves beside the entrance. Officers at the back of the store radioed that suspects started to try to escape out the back but then retreated into the store. Video recordings from patrol cars show Hartman approaching the entrance as two men appeared. Johnson ran out of the entrance. Officers shouted to the suspects to get down. Hartman started to run toward Johnson, but then turned to Gant standing in the doorway with his left arm extended, holding the door open. Hartman fired two shots, striking Gant in the abdomen. Hartman believed Gant was preparing to shoot. Gant actually had not been holding anything in his hand. Gant pleaded guilty to armed robbery and filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 excessive force action. The court granted summary judgment of qualified immunity for all defendants except Hartman, finding that a reasonable juror could conclude that Gant was obeying Hartman’s commands or did not have the opportunity to obey. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Hartman’s argument is inseparable from the disputed facts identified by the district court. View "Gant v. Hartman" on Justia Law

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Collins pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine and crack cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). Because of a prior felony drug conviction, he faced a statutory minimum of ten years in prison, unless he qualified for the “safety valve,” 18 U.S.C. 3553(f)(5). On remand, the district court again determined that Collins did not qualify for the safety valve. The court focused on a statement in his proffer interview that he intended to use $40,000 cash found in his car at the time of his arrest, at least $15,000 of which were cocaine sales proceeds, to purchase a new car. Doubting the veracity of that claim, the court concluded that Collins had not established that he had “truthfully provided to the Government all information and evidence the defendant has concerning the offense or offenses that were part of the same course of conduct or of a common scheme or plan,” 18 U.S.C. 3553(f)(5). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although Collins provided ample correct information about his offenses, the court weighed the record and concluded that Collins had not established his eligibility because his explanations about the cash were not credible. This conclusion was not clearly erroneous. It was a difficult decision on disputed facts. View "United States v. Collins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law