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

by
Hernandez-Garcia’s husband entered the U.S. illegally in 2001. He sent her money in Guatemala, so she had a higher standard of living than her neighbors. In 2013, her oldest son left for the U.S. She began receiving anonymous notes asking for money and threatening her and her younger children. Hernandez-Garcia went to the police, who ignored her. The family left Guatemala. At the U.S. border, they were served with Notices to Appear. An immigration judge denied their applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Hernandez-Garcia admitted that she told an officer that she did not fear persecution or torture and that she had left Guatemala because of poverty. The judge found the threats not sufficiently imminent or severe to be more than harassment and that Hernandez-Garcia failed to demonstrate a nexus between that harm and a protected ground, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)(A)). Perceived or actual wealth, alone, does not form the basis of a particular social group. The BIA affirmed, rejecting Hernandez-Garcia’s argument that the proceedings were jurisdictionally barred because of the absence of date-and-place information in the Notice; she received a later notice with that information and appeared at several hearings. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Hernandez-Garcia was not prejudiced by the omission of information in her Notice to Appear. “It is too big a leap from the indifference the police demonstrated ... to a finding that public officials would either torture her or stand by while others did.” View "Hernandez-Garcia v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

by
In 2010, Baby Fold, which provides Illinois foster-care services, placed three-year-old Kianna in the care of Lamie, who killed Kianna in 2011 and was convicted of murder. The administrator of Kianna’s estate maintained a state court wrongful death action against Baby Fold, which settled for $4 million. Baby Fold’s insurer, Philadelphia, sought a declaratory judgment that its maximum indemnity is $1 million under a primary policy and $250,000 under an excess policy. Baby Fold and the administrator argued that the excess policy’s limit is $5 million. The district court entered judgment in favor of Philadelphia and dismissed the counterclaims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the policies were ambiguous. The primary policy comprises several “coverage parts,” each of which outlines specific types of losses. One part covers losses arising out of negligent supervision of foster parents who commit physical abuse; this part provides $1 million of coverage. The excess policy then provides additional coverage for physical-abuse claims, but the background limit of $5 million drops to $250,000 for each instance of “abusive conduct”, a term that aggregates multiple acts of abuse by multiple persons. The policies contain anti-stacking provisions to prevent an insured from benefiting from consecutive policies’ limits when injuries or losses span multiple periods. The primary policy accomplishes this by defining “abusive conduct” to aggregate multiple acts of abuse into one unit. View "Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co. v. Chicago Trust Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

by
Anstice pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and five years’ supervised release. Five conditions of supervised release appeared in the written judgment of conviction but were not announced orally by the district court at sentencing. Three of the challenged conditions are mandated by federal statute, 18 U.S.C. 3583(d), and two are discretionary (requiring Anstice to report to the probation office within 72 hours of his release and prohibiting his possessing a firearm, destructive device, or other dangerous weapons),. All had been categorized as “mandatory” in the Presentence Investigation Report. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. The three conditions mandated by section 3583(d) were validly part of Anstice’s sentence even though the court failed to announce them orally at sentencing. The court vacated the other two conditions. As commonplace and sensible as the conditions may be across federal sentences, Congress has not mandated their imposition. If a district court does choose to impose them, they must be announced at sentencing; in this case, the oral sentence conflicts with the written sentence. View "United States v. Anstice" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Narkiewicz‐Laine, an artist, rented space from the defendants in 2004. About six years later, the defendants cleared the rental space and discarded most of his property, including his only records of the stored property. Narkiewicz‐Laine filed suit, citing the Visual Artists Rights Act, 17 U.S.C. 106A. For certain visual art, the Act confers upon artists rights to attribution and integrity, including the right to prevent the work’s destruction. Narkiewicz‐Laine added claims for trespass, conversion, and negligence under Illinois law. He sought $11 million for his losses. The defendants presented evidence that Narkiewicz‐Laine had missed multiple rent payments and stopped paying for the property's utilities, and testified that, before emptying the space, they saw nothing resembling art or valuable personal property. The defendants introduced Narkiewicz‐Laine's prior conviction for lying to an FBI agent. The jury awarded $120,000 in damages under the Act plus $300,000 on the state law claims, reflecting the loss of all the belongings stored at the unit. The court reduced the total award to $300,000 to avoid an improper double recovery, reasoning that Narkiewicz‐Laine’s common law claims necessarily included the loss of his artwork. The court concluded did not award Narkiewicz‐Laine attorneys’ fees under the Copyright Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first upholding the decision to allow Narkiewicz‐Laine’s 2003 conviction into evidence. Narkiewicz‐Laine is not entitled to recover twice for the same property, so the actual damages attributed to specific art must be subtracted from the jury’s award of actual damages for all destroyed property. View "Narkiewicz-Laine v. Doyle" on Justia Law

by
Bernal bought a monthly pass to Six Flags amusement parks. The contract said that if he fell behind on his payments, he would “be billed for any amounts that are due and owing plus any costs (including reasonable attorney’s fees) incurred by [Six Flags] in attempting to collect amounts due.” After Bernal missed several monthly payments, Six Flags hired AR, a debt collector. Under their contract, AR could charge Six Flags a 5% management fee plus an additional amount based on the number of days the debt was delinquent (in this case, an additional 20%), as is common in the market. AR hired NRA, a subcontractor, which sent Bernal a collection letter asking for the $267.31 he owed, plus $43.28 in costs. Reasoning that it could not have cost $43.28 to mail a single collection letter, Bernal filed a class-action lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, alleging that NRA charged a fee not “expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt,” 15 U.S.C. 1692f(1). The Seventh Circuit affirmed a judgment for NRA. A debt collector’s fee counts as a collection cost under that language. The contract unambiguously permits Six Flags to recover any cost it incurs in collecting past-due payments, and that includes a standard collection fee. View "Bernal v. NRA Group, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Consumer Law

by
Illinois inmate Donelson was moved to Stateville, where a prison nurse screened him for medical issues. Donelson is asthmatic and stated that he needed a new inhaler. The nurse responded that he could get one from a doctor. Donelson had to wait 16 days to see a doctor but apparently could have gone to the commissary at any time for an inhaler. Donelson received an inhaler 20 days after arriving at Stateville. He sued, 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment (deliberate indifference to his asthma) and the First Amendment (delaying his care to retaliate for prior lawsuits). During discovery, the court encountered several problems: Donelson’s conflict with his recruited lawyer and that lawyer’s withdrawal; Donelson’s false assertion that Wexford refused to respond to his document requests; and Donelson’s obstructive behavior during his deposition. Donelson professed not to understand simple questions, no matter how often rephrased, then refused to answer. Donelson accused opposing counsel of bringing contraband (an inhaler) into Stateville. The judge described Donelson’s responses as “evasive and argumentative,” then ruled that dismissal with prejudice and an award of costs was a proper sanction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding the sanction reasonable. Donelson acted willfully and in bad faith; the dismissal was proportional and appropriate given Donelson’s grossly unacceptable conduct, the need to convey the seriousness of his violations, the obvious insufficiency of any warning, and his inability to pay any meaningful monetary sanction. View "Donelson v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner testified at her asylum hearing that she believed that E.G., the father of her son, is a member of the Mexican cartel, La Familia Michoacana. Petitioner ended her relationship with E.G. in July 2012, fearing that opposing cartel members might harm her or her children. She moved to her mother’s house, two hours away, while pregnant with E.G.’s child. Petitioner saw little of E.G. until June 2013, when he started occasionally driving by her home and the restaurant where she worked. When she declined to return to him, E.G. threatened to take her sons away—“the bad way” if necessary. Petitioner moved but continued to see E.G. driving by her apartment late at night. Local police told her there was nothing they could do. She fled to the U.S. with her children. Petitioner has not spoken to E.G. since June 2013 but E.G. sent his relatives to her mother’s house to ask about her whereabouts. Petitioner argued that she was entitled to asylum because she fears persecution as the mother of a cartel member’s child and as a Mexican woman who cannot leave her relationship. The IJ and BIA denied relief. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Petitioner’s testimony did not establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution and an inability to relocate in Mexico to avoid persecution. Petitioner did not establish membership in either social group she identified. She did leave her relationship; her belief that E.G. was a cartel member was speculative. View "N. Y. C. C. v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

by
Posada, a licensed chiropractor, owned and operated Spine Clinics, a Medicare-enrolled provider. Posada was indicted for a scheme to defraud Medicare and other insurers by submitting fraudulent claims and falsely representing that certain health care services were provided. The prosecution presented evidence that Posada billed the insurers for deceased patients and services never performed, created fake files, and failed to document the actual services rendered. Witnesses from Medicare and an insurer testified regarding the thousands of claims submitted. Two physical therapists also testified about the services they performed for Spine Clinics, how they billed Posada, and that they never performed many of the services for which he charged. Convicted of 18 counts of health care fraud, Posada’s PSR indicated an offense level of 26, based on a $4,087,736 loss amount, and recommended a term of incarceration of 63-78 months. To calculate that amount the prosecution reviewed Spine Clinic's files and when no treatment documentation was present, the amount billed was treated as a loss. The prosecution credited Posada with treating 20 patients a day, three days a week every week during the period of the fraud. Posada argued for an estimate of 25-26 patients per day and a loss amount less than $3.5 million. The district court accepted the government’s calculation and found a loss amount of $4,087,736. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that amount and Posada’s 60-month sentence, noting that the calculation was supported by the evidence at trial. View "United States v. Posada" on Justia Law

by
Arriving at Kirk’s house, Kirk and Herman saw that Kirk's mother, Daniels, had a Jimenez Arms handgun tucked into her purse. She allowed Herman to handle the gun. Herman pulled out a revolver and said, “stay seated. I don’t want to blow you guys back, but I will if I have to,” then ran outside. Kirk and Daniels pursued him. Herman spun around, with a gun in each hand, and fired a shot that flew past Daniels’s head. Herman pled guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g). On remand, the court adopted the version of events set forth in the PSR, to add two offense levels because Herman “physically restrained” his victims, U.S.S.G. 2B3.1(b)(4)(B); seven levels because a firearm was discharged; and one level because a firearm was taken. It subtracted three levels for acceptance of responsibility and calculated a recommended guidelines range of 120-150 months. The court imposed the statutory maximum sentence of 120 months. The Seventh Circuit vacated, agreeing with the circuits that have found that more than pointing a gun at someone and ordering that person not to move is necessary for the application of section 2B3.1(b)(4)(B). The court “disapproved” prior holdings that allowed for the application of the enhancement based solely on psychological coercion, including the coercion of being held at gunpoint. The court requested the Clerk of Court to send the opinion to the U.S. Sentencing Commission for consideration. View "United States v. Herman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
A CTA bus passenger threatened Pickett, the driver. He took six months off from work while recovering. After his physician concluded that he could return to work (though not as a driver), Pickett requested a light-duty job. He was given one but four days later he was told that the CTA was not ready to permit his return to work. Pickett had been told that before returning to work he needed to complete a (provided) form and report to CTA’s Leave Management Services office, which would administer tests (including a drug screen). He ignored those directions until 2017. He was then approved for work and retired five days later. Before visiting Leave Management Services in 2017 he had filed an EEOC charge of age discrimination, claiming that during 2015 he saw persons younger than himself doing light-duty tasks. After receiving his right-to-sue letter, Pickett sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621–34. The district court granted the CTA summary judgment after denying Pickett’s request for appointed counsel without explanation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court’s failure to explain its decision was harmless error. Pickett has not shown how a lawyer could have helped him overcome his biggest obstacle: he never took the steps that CTA told him were essential. View "Lawrence Pickett v. Chicago Transit Authority" on Justia Law