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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Lund, a reporter for the Rockford Scanner, heard, by police scanner, of multiple traffic stops in Midtown. He did not have a driver’s license, so he rode a motorized bicycle to Midtown to take photographs. He suspected a prostitution sting operation. An officer noticed Lund and radioed the team. Officers Welsh and Campbell knew of Lund's previous anti‐police speech. They directed Lund to “move on.” Lund asked if he was breaking any laws. Campbell informed him that he was not, but that his continued presence would constitute obstruction of a police detail and result in arrest. Lund started his bicycle and called out, loudly, “goodbye officers.” Concerned that Lund might post pictures on social media while the sting operation was ongoing and create a danger for unarmed undercover officers, the officers followed Lund and arrested him for driving the wrong way on a one‐way street, operating a vehicle without insurance, obstructing a police officer, felony aggravated driving on a revoked license, and operating a motor vehicle without a valid drivers’ license. News stories listed Lund’s name as an arrestee in the prostitution sting. The charges against Lund were dismissed. Lund sued the officers and the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants on First Amendment retaliation and malicious prosecution under Illinois law, citing the Supreme Court’s intervening "Nieves" (2019) holding, that, in most cases, probable cause to arrest defeats a claim of retaliatory arrest. There was probable cause to arrest Lund. View "Lund v. City of Rockford" on Justia Law

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Winfield confessed to shooting Garrett. Winfield was convicted of attempted murder. Winfield was also accused of killing Stovall in the same shooting but was acquitted on that charge because no credible witness had placed Winfield at the scene of the crime and his confession did not mention Stovall. The judge rejected Winfield’s argument that his confession was coerced and his “half-hearted” alibi defense. On appeal, Winfield raised one unsuccessful sentencing argument. Illinois state courts, on post-conviction review, concluded that trial counsel’s presentation of Winfield’s alibi was not so deficient that it violated the Constitution; they did not meaningfully address the performance of appellate counsel. On federal habeas review, the district court concluded that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. 2254(d), did not apply because the ineffective assistance claim had not been adjudicated on the merits in state court. It considered the claim without any deference to the state courts and found appellate counsel had rendered ineffective assistance by omitting an argument that Winfield’s confession was uncorroborated. The Seventh Circuit held that Winfield is not entitled to relief. Winfield cannot overcome the deference applied to the state court’s finding that trial counsel performed reasonably because Winfield never told counsel that he was at home at the time of the shooting. The Constitution did not obligate Winfield’s appellate counsel to discover and present a complex and novel corpus delicti argument that may not have succeeded. View "Winfield v. Dorethy" on Justia Law

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An Illinois municipality may join the Municipal League, an unincorporated, nonprofit, nonpolitical association, and may pay annual membership dues and fees; member municipalities may act through the League to provide and disseminate information and research services and do other acts for improving local government, 65 ILCS 5/1-8-1. Lincolnshire is one of more than a thousand dues-paying League members and uses tax revenue to pay the dues from the Village’s General Fund. From 2013-2018, Lincolnshire paid at least $5,051 in voluntary dues and fees to the League. Individual residents and the Unions sued, claiming First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause violations. They claimed that Lincolnshire compelled them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern because the League sent emails promoting a particular political agenda, including the adoption of “right to work” zones. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Lincolnshire itself has the right to speak for itself and a right to associate; it voluntarily joined the League as it is authorized to do. Local governments must be allowed to discuss, either directly or through a surrogate, ideas related to municipal government, regardless of where those ideas originated. View "O'Brien v. Village of Lincolnshire" on Justia Law

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Schillinger, a Wisconsin prisoner, was assaulted by another inmate as the prisoners were returning to their housing unit after recreation. He suffered a fractured skull, broken teeth, cuts, and other serious injuries. Schillinger sued three guards under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district judge screened the complaint and permitted Schillinger to proceed on a claim that the officers failed to take preventive action after learning of hostility between Schillinger and his attacker during the recreation period shortly before the attack. The judge later ruled that Schillinger had not exhausted his administrative remedies on that claim and entered summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Schillinger’s arguments that the judge should have gleaned from his complaint two additional factual grounds for a failure-to-protect claim: that the officers did not respond fast enough to an alarm about a medical emergency on his unit once the attack was underway and they stood by without intervening to stop the attack. Upholding the exhaustion ruling, the court reasoned that while Schillinger pursued a complaint through all levels of the prison’s inmate-complaint system, he never mentioned the claim he raised in litigation: that the officers were aware of threatening behavior by the attacker before the assault and failed to protect him. View "Schillinger v. Kiley" on Justia Law

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Gish pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless homicide for the 2012 stabbing death of Litwicki, the mother of his children. He appealed, claiming that his attorney provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate an involuntary intoxication defense. Police found Gish delirious on the night of the killing. He claimed that rare side effects from taking prescription Xanax affected his ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected the claim. Gish initiated federal habeas proceedings. The district court held an evidentiary hearing but denied relief, finding that defense was so unlikely to succeed that Gish still would have pleaded guilty. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While trial counsel admitted that he never assessed a Xanax-based involuntary intoxication defense, that defense had no reasonable prospect of success. Gish told a nurse that he sold his pills and no longer had any and told a detective that he last took Xanax “[a] couple days” earlier. The police found no trace of Xanax in Gish’s home. Even if Gish had taken Xanax the day of the homicide, it was unlikely that he was the rare patient who would have experienced such extreme effects; his expert on that point lacked credibility. Gish confessed to how he went about killing and abusing Litwicki and had a motive--he suspected Litwicki was cheating on him and would take his kids away View "Gish v. Hepp" on Justia Law

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Two Hendricks County reserve deputies went to the King home after Bradley, age 29 and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, called 9-1-1 and requested help. Deputies Hays and Thomas testified that upon their arrival, Bradley came outside, walked toward them, and pulled a 10-inch knife out of his pocket. The deputies drew their service firearms and yelled at Bradley to stop and drop the knife. Bradley disregarded their commands and ran toward Hays with the knife in his left hand, his left arm raised. When Bradley was approximately eight feet away, Hays fired one shot. It was fatal. A knife, which Bradley’s father identified as from the Kings’ kitchen, was recovered from near Bradley’s left hand. An examination of the knife did not reveal any latent fingerprints. Bradley’s father filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting that Bradley was never violent, even when suffering a psychotic episode, and arguing that the bullet trajectory, the lack of fingerprints, and the fact that Bradley was right-handed, undermined the deputies’ account. He also brought claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the claims on summary judgment. Substantial testimonial and physical evidence supported Hays’s version of events, with no concrete evidence rebutting it. If Bradley was denied access to medical services it was because of his behavior, not because he was mentally disabled. View "King v. Hendricks County Commissioner" on Justia Law

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Worman mailed his supervisor a pipe bomb, which the Postal Service intercepted. Worman was convicted of mailing an explosive device (18 U.S.C. 1716), possessing an unregistered destructive device (26 U.S.C. 5861(d), 5845(f)), transporting an explosive device (18 U.S.C. 844(d)), and possessing and using a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. 924(c)). Worman’s mailing of a bomb constituted the predicate crime of violence for the section 924(c) charge, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment consecutive to any sentence imposed on another count. Worman was sentenced to 360 months for the 924(c) offense and one month for the other offenses. The judge explained that Worman would not be released until he was 84 and lacked any criminal history. The Eighth Circuit vacated; its precedent prohibited judges from considering a mandatory consecutive sentence when granting a downward variance. The court resentenced Worman to 168 months for the pipe‐bomb offenses and 360 mandatory, consecutive months for the 924(c) offense. In 2016, Worman filed an unsuccessful pro se motion for a new sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, based on the Supreme Court’s 2015 “Johnson” decision. In 2017, the Supreme Court held, in “Dean,” that a sentencing court may use its discretion when calculating an appropriate sentence for a felony serving as the basis for a section 924(c) conviction. Worman sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, despite recognizing that Dean provided Worman a basis for a sentencing reduction. Worman does not meet either exception authorizing a second habeas motion. Dean was a decision of statutory law, not an interpretation of the Constitution, and does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review. View "Worman v. Entzel" on Justia Law

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Turner suffered a broken nose during an altercation with another inmate while in pre-trial detention at the Cook County Jail. The injury left him with pain and shortness of breath. A doctor determined that he needed surgery to treat his problems. The surgery was repeatedly rescheduled and postponed. More than a year after the initial injury, he finally received the surgery following his release from custody. Claiming that his treatment was unconstitutionally deficient, Turner sued administrators and medical professionals and Cook County itself. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Turner presented no evidence that would allow the trier of fact to conclude that the allegedly unreasonable conduct of any named defendant caused his surgery to be delayed; none of them had the authority to schedule or to perform the relevant surgery. Each time any of the individual defendants encountered Turner, his surgery or another appointment was on the surgery schedule. No rule of law imposes a duty on the medical defendants to continue calling the clinic after they properly contacted the proper schedulers. View "Turner v. Paul" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs, current and former inmates of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), have been diagnosed with hepatitis C. They filed suit against IDOC, Wexford (which provides inmate health services) and doctors more than 10 years ago after fruitless efforts to receive treatment for their disease while incarcerated. Their 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint alleges that the diagnostic and treatment protocols for IDOC inmates with hepatitis C violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Seventh Circuit reversed the grant of class certification and vacated a preliminary injunction. After discussing numerosity and commonality of facts and issues, the court noted that the district court failed to name a class representative or explain its omission, leaving no way to assess the adequacy of representation. On the assumption that the court would have accepted the proposed representatives, the record does not reveal whether they would be adequate. The lack of a named representative also makes it impossible to find typicality--that the “claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class.” The individual plaintiffs have not shown that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the preliminary injunction, so it was error to grant injunctive relief. View "Orr v. Shicker" on Justia Law

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Police officers stopped the plaintiffs numerous times for violating an ordinance while they were panhandling on the streets of Chicago. During these stops, the officers typically asked the plaintiffs to produce identification and then used the provided ID cards to search for outstanding warrants for their arrest or investigative alerts. The plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that these checks unnecessarily prolong street stops and that the delays constitute unreasonable detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They argued that Chicago maintained an unconstitutional policy or practice of performing these checks (Monell claim), citing a Chicago Police Department Special Order regulating name-checks that purportedly omitted essential constitutional limits, arguing that the Department failed to train on these same constitutional limits, and claiming that the former Superintendent promulgated an unconstitutional policy by promoting name-checks in conjunction with every street stop. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Monell claims. Officers may execute a name check on an individual incidental to a proper stop under Terry v. Ohio, as long as the resulting delay is reasonable. The plaintiffs e failed to establish that they suffered an underlying constitutional violation such that Chicago can be held liable. View "Hall v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law