Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Aerospace/Defense
Moss v. United Airlines, Inc.
Under a 2014 policy, United pilots only accrued sick time during the first 90 days of military leave. Moss, a pilot and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves, sued, alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301, which requires employers to provide employees on military leave any seniority-based benefit the employee would have accrued but for the military leave. He claimed that sick time is a seniority-based benefit that should have continuously accrued or sick-time accrual was available to pilots on comparable periods of leave.The district court granted United summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. For a benefit to be seniority-based, the benefit must be a reward for length of service. Sick leave is not such a reward but is "a future-oriented longevity incentive." United’s sick-time accrual policy contains a work requirement and is in the nature of compensation, not a reward for long service. . View "Moss v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Baker v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
From 1906 -1970, the companies manufactured industrial materials at an East Chicago, Indiana Superfund Site. In the 1970s, the East Chicago Housing Authority constructed “West Calumet,” a low-income residential building, on that site. In 2017, former West Calumet tenants sued the companies based on the tenants’ exposure to hazardous substances. Defendant Atlantic Richfield removed the case to federal court, asserting a government contractor defense because its predecessor, ISR, operated during World War II. ISR sold lead and zinc to entities who were under contract with the government to produce the goods for the military. ISR itself held five Army contracts. The materials made by ISR were critical wartime commodities that had to be manufactured according to detailed federal specifications. Other regulations effectively prevented ISR from selling to distributors for civilian applications. Defendant DuPont asserted that the government directed it to build a facility for the government and then lease it from the government to produce Freon-12 and hydrochloric acid solely for the government. The district court remanded, finding that most of the Companies’ government business occurred outside the relevant time frame.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Atlantic Richfield worked "hand-in-hand with the federal government to achieve a task that furthers an end of the federal government.” The Companies’ wartime production was a small but significant portion of their relevant conduct; the federal interest in the matter supports removal. Atlantic Richfield set forth sufficient facts regarding its government contractor defense. View "Baker v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law
Bishop v. Air Line Pilots Association, International
United Airlines pilot instructors sued their union, ALPA, alleging that ALPA had breached its duty of fair representation in its allocation of a retroactive pay settlement among different groups of pilots. The district court dismissed the case. The Seventh Circuit reversed. A claim of discrimination or bad faith must rest on more than a showing that a union’s actions treat different groups of employees differently and must be based on more than the discriminatory impact of the union’s otherwise rational decision to compromise. The Instructors sufficiently and plausibly pleaded that ALPA acted in bad faith in its allocation of retroactive pay between the line pilots and pilot instructors. A union may not make decisions “solely for the benefit of a stronger, more politically favored group over a minority group.” The plaintiffs have alleged that pilot instructors make up a minority of ALPA’s membership and that ALPA acted with the intent to appease its majority membership, the line pilots, after a lengthy and contentious CBA negotiation. View "Bishop v. Air Line Pilots Association, International" on Justia Law
United States v. Van Haften
Van Haften, a Wisconsin native, was caught traveling to Turkey to join ISIS. Van Haften holds several bizarre beliefs and has a vendetta against the government, having been convicted of statutory rape and designated a sex offender. Van Haften pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, 18 U.S.C. 2339B(a)(1). The district court applied the terrorism enhancement (U.S.S.G. 3A1.4) because his crime was “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” After hearing testimony about Van Haften’s delusional beliefs and his willingness to reform, the court gave him a below-guidelines sentence of 10 years. Without the terrorism enhancement, Van Haften’s range would have been 57–71 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting overwhelming evidence that Van Haften sought revenge against the government. While Van Haften’s motivations fluctuated over time and were sometimes incoherent, his actions were not irrational even if his factual predicates were false or absurd. It is unimportant why Van Haften wanted to retaliate against the government; he committed a crime calculated to retaliate against the government. A desire for safety and Islamic fellowship may have contributed his decision, but this was not Van Haften’s sole, or even primary, motivation. View "United States v. Van Haften" on Justia Law
Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center v. Department of Homeland Security
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center submitted to the Department of Homeland Security a Freedom of Information Act request for information relating to Tier III terrorist organizations. Membership in any tier makes a person inadmissible to the United States, with narrow exceptions. Tier I and Tier II organizations are publicly identified terrorist groups such as ISIS and al‐Qaeda. Tier III organizations are defined in 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(vi)(III) as any group that engages in terrorist activity (defined in 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(iv)), even if the activity is conducted exclusively against regimes that are enemies of the United States. The government typically does not have good intelligence about Tier III organizations. The Department provided only some of the requested information. The Center filed suit. The district judge granted, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed, summary judgment for the government on the ground that the names of the Tier III organizations are protected from disclosure by the Freedom of Information Act’s exemption, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(7)(E), for “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information ... would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.” View "Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law
Marshall v. Woodward, Inc.
Plaintiffs, Woodward employees, filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, alleging that Woodward falsely certified helicopter engine parts that it sold to the government. Plaintiffs had complained that the sensors at issue did not meet quality standards and had refused to work on the order. Following an investigation, a Defense Contract Management Agency Technical Specialist concluded that there was “nothing either incorrect or wrong with the procedures, assembly, or testing of the sensors.” The government continues to order, pay for, and use Woodward’s sensor The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Woodward, agreeing that even if Woodward made false statements to the government, no reasonable jury could find that it made the statements knowingly or that the statements were material. View "Marshall v. Woodward, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Dobek
Dobek was an engineer in charge of providing parts for F-16 fighter planes owned by the Venezuelan Air Force. The U.S. State Department announced that munitions, including parts for military aircraft, could no longer be exported to Venezuela without an export license, and revoked existing licenses. Dobek created firms to carry on business with Venezuela. The Venezuelan Air Force told Dobek that it needed canopy seals for its F-16s. Suspecting that Dobek was selling canopy seals to Venezuela, FBI agents executed a warrant at Dobek’s home, where they found a purchase order for the seals, with no purchaser named. Dobek had certified that he understood that the “products … to be provided are controlled by the … International Traffic in Arms Regulations.” He told a friend that he was looking for a box to ship “cockpit seals.” FedEx shipping records revealed that Dobek had shipped a box, labeled as “base molding,” to Venezuela after that discussion. This pattern of purchase and shipment was repeated a year later. Dobek was convicted of exporting munitions illegally, 22 U.S.C. 2778(b)(2), and conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the admissibility of an alleged co-conspirator’s emails, the sufficiency of the evidence, and the validity of the jury instruction on willfulness, stating that evidence of willfulness was overwhelming. View "United States v. Dobek" on Justia Law
United States v. Daoud
Daoud, an 18-year-old American citizen, had an email conversation with undercover FBI employees posing as terrorists who responded to messages that he had posted online. Daoud planned “violent jihad” and discussed his interest in committing attacks in the U.S, using bomb-making instructions that he had read in Inspire magazine, an English-language organ of Al Qaeda, and online. Daoud selected a Chicago bar as the target of a bomb that the agent would supply. The agent told him the bomb would destroy the building and would kill “hundreds” of people. Daoud replied: “that’s the point.” On September 14, 2012, Daoud parked a Jeep containing the fake bomb in front of the bar. In an alley, in the presence of the agent, he tried to detonate the fake bomb and was arrested. In jail, he tried to solicit someone to murder the undercover agent with whom he had dealt. The government notified Daoud, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), 50 U.S.C. 1801, that it intended to present evidence derived from electronic surveillance conducted under the Act. His attorney sought access to the classified materials submitted in support of the government’s FISA warrant applications. The government supplied a heavily redacted, unclassified response and a classified version, accessible only to the court with a statement that disclosure “would harm the national security.” The harm was detailed in a classified affidavit signed by the FBI’s Acting Assistant Director for Counterterrorism. The district judge ordered the materials sought by defense counsel turned over. In an interlocutory appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that in addition to having the requisite security clearance the seeker of such information must establish need to know. View "United States v. Daoud" on Justia Law
United States v. Jin
Jin, a naturalized American citizen of Chinese origin, with a bachelor’s degree in physics from a Chinese university and master’s degrees in physics and computer science from American universities, was employed as a Motorola software engineer, 1998-2007. Her duties involved a cellular telecommunications system: Integrated Digital Enhanced Network (IDEN). While on medical leave in China, 2006-2007, she sought a job with a Chinese company, Sun Kaisens, which develops telecommunications technology for the Chinese armed forces. She returned to the U.S., bought a one‐way ticket to China on a plane scheduled to leave Chicago days later, then downloaded thousands of internal Motorola documents, stamped proprietary, disclosing details of IDEN, which she was carrying with $31,000 when stopped by Customs agents. She stated she intended to live in China and work for Sun Kaisens. She was convicted of theft of trade secrets, but acquitted of economic espionage, under the Economic Espionage Act, 18 U.S.C. 1831, 1832, and sentenced to 48 months in prison. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that what she stole was not a trade secret and that she neither intended nor knew that the theft would harm Motorola. The court characterized the sentence as lenient, given Jin’s egregious conduct, which included repeatedly lying to federal agents.p View "United States v. Jin" on Justia Law
ATA Airlines, Inc. v. FedEx Corp.
In a national emergency, the Department of Defense can augment its own capabilities with aircraft drawn from the "Civil Reserve Air Fleet," composed of aircraft owned by commercial carriers but committed voluntarily for use during emergencies. The Fleet is divided into teams of airlines. The Department awards mobilization value points; the more points a member has, the more non-emergency Department air transportation the member can bid on. Points are transferrable within teams. Members of defendant's team have a contract with a one-year term and a separate three-year agreement concerning distribution of business among members. Plaintiff's suit is based on a 2006 three-year agreement in the form of a letter. A change from what members of the team had been doing ultimately led to plaintiff's withdrawal from the team. Plaintiff subsequently went into bankruptcy. Plaintiff won a jury verdict of almost $66 million. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the "agreement" did not include crucial terms and was so indefinite as to be unenforceable. The court also criticized the regression analysis on which the award was calculated. A promissory estoppel claim, while not preempted, failed on the facts.