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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Illinois’s Firearm Concealed Carry Act creates a scheme for licensing individuals to carry concealed firearms in public. White was twice denied a concealed carry license. White unsuccessfully appealed the first denial in Illinois state court. Following the second denial, White and the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) filed suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the Act.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. ISRA lacks Article III standing. White’s facial challenges to the Act are precluded by the state court judgment. The Act does not violate the Second Amendment as applied to the denial of White’s second application. White has two criminal convictions—including one for unlawful use of a firearm—and multiple gun-related arrests. Illinois’s individualized determination that White’s criminal history renders him too dangerous to carry a concealed firearm in public survives intermediate scrutiny. View "White v. Illinois State Police" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Arnold was convicted of repeated sexual assault of his son, M.A., the principal witness at trial. As a persistent repeater, Arnold was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2011, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and the denial of Arnold’s first post‐conviction petition. M.A. then signed a notarized affidavit, recanting his trial testimony. Nearly two years later, Arnold filed a pro se petition seeking a new trial. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the petition, reasoning that the affidavit was not newly-discovered evidence but was cumulative of evidence presented at trial. The Wisconsin Supreme Court again denied review.In December 2015, Arnold filed a federal habeas petition, claiming actual innocence. The district court dismissed the petition as untimely. Under 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A), a petitioner must seek habeas relief within one year of the date that his conviction became final. On remand, the district court heard testimony from M.A., a child psychologist, and M.A.’s former counselor. The Seventh Circuit then affirmed the dismissal of the petition. Arnold failed to meet the rigorous standard for overcoming the time bar. The court properly applied that probabilistic standard on remand; it was not the court’s charge on remand to independently determine whether it found M.A.’s recantation credible or reliable. The court employed the proper standard in viewing the new evidence through the eyes of a reasonable juror. View "Arnold v. Richardson" on Justia Law

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Providers filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Medicaid Act, alleging that the Department violated constitutional and statutory law in retroactively recalculating their Medicaid reimbursement rates for the three-month period of January through March 2016.The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the Providers' procedural due process claim, concluding that, at this early stage in the litigation, the allegations are sufficient to allege a violation of procedural due process. First, the court explained that the Providers retain a legitimate entitlement to a rate determined according to that formula, and any action to alter the rate must be conducted with due process. In this case, according to the amended complaint, the auditors failed to provide any notice of the alleged deficiencies prior to the final decision, and the Providers had no opportunity to submit additional documentation or other evidence following that decision. The court stated that the burden on the Department in providing such notice is no impediment, given that the procedures are already in the Code. The court explained that the Department need only follow those procedures rather than routinely bypass them. Therefore, in the absence of that basic and fundamental protection against unfair or mistaken findings, the court concluded that the Providers have sufficiently alleged a violation of due process. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Rock River Health Care, LLC v. Eagleson" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action brought by plaintiff, an inmate at the Dixon Correctional Center, alleging that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by refusing to grant him an exemption to wearing a restrictive security device, a black box, when he left the facility for medical appointments.In regard to claims against Dr. Mesrobian, the court concluded that no reasonable jury could find that Dr. Mesrobian acted with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk to plaintiff's health where the doctor concluded that an exemption was not necessary because the amount of force used was minimal and the security concerns significant. In regard to claims against Wexford Health, the court concluded that Wexford Health did not have a policy or practice of per se denials of black box exemptions or of failing to perform assessments to determine whether an exemption was warranted. In regard to claims against Assistant Warden Steele, the court concluded that prison administrators were not indifferent by depending on medical personnel to make medical assessments and that the IDOC, through Steele in his official capacity, did not fail to implement policies in a way that added up to deliberate indifference. Furthermore, the court did not find sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the IDOC had an unconstitutional custom or practice of not giving black box exemptions to inmates with conditions like that of plaintiff. View "Stewart v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Citing a budget deficit, Chicago’s Board of Education laid off 1,077 teachers and 393 paraprofessional educators in 2011. The Chicago Teachers Union and a class of teachers (CTU) sued, alleging that the layoffs discriminated against African-American teachers and paraprofessionals in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. 2000e.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Board. While CTU made a prima facie case of disparate impact with evidence that African-Americans comprised approximately 30% of Union members at the time of the layoffs but made up just over 40% of Union members receiving layoff notices, the Board’s decision to tie layoffs to declining enrollment in schools was legitimate, job-related, and consistent with business necessity. Beyond noting the existence of open positions for which laid-off employees were qualified, CTU did not meet its burden of establishing that its proposed alternative of transferring employees was “available, equally valid and less discriminatory.” The Illinois statute’s designation of hiring discretion to principals neither promotes discrimination nor bears any relationship to the Board’s decision to tie layoffs to declining enrollment and the transfer alternative proposed by CTU is not consistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. CTU did not put forth any evidence of intentional discrimination by the Board. View "Chicago Teachers Union v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Based on his assault on his wife and her parents, Minnick was charged with aggravated battery, attempted first‐degree murder, and several counts of first‐degree reckless endangerment and attempted burglary, while using a dangerous weapon. Minnick agreed to plead no contest, except for attempted murder, which was dismissed and read‐in, and leave sentencing to the court, exposing him to 73 years of confinement. The court sentenced Minnick to 27 years.Wisconsin courts rejected his argument that his trial attorney improperly guaranteed and unreasonably estimated that he would receive a much shorter sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court denied review. Wisconsin courts then rejected his post-conviction argument that counsel was constitutionally ineffective because she failed to advise him that he could withdraw his no-contest pleas before sentencing if he provided a “fair and just reason” and that, when counsel learned that the PSR recommended a sentencing range exceeding what she had advised, she should have moved to withdraw his pleas.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of habeas relief. Although Minnick’s claims could have been analyzed differently—including whether the state court’s decision on counsel’s sentencing advice warranted deference under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals did not unreasonably apply the Strickland deficient‐performance prong in concluding that a plea withdrawal claim was not clearly stronger than the argument that Minnick’s postconviction counsel advanced. View "Minnick v. Winkleski" on Justia Law

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About 50 businesses that offer live adult entertainment (nude or nearly nude dancing) sought loans under the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program enacted to address the economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Congress excluded plaintiffs and other categories of businesses from the second round of the Program, 15 U.S.C. 636(a)(37)(A)(iv)(III)(aa), incorporating 13 C.F.R. 120.110. Plaintiffs asserted that their exclusion violated their rights under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.The district court issued a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the Small Business Administration (SBA) from denying the plaintiffs eligibility for the loan program based on the statutory exclusion. The Seventh Circuit granted the government’s stay of the preliminary injunction and expedited briefing on the merits of the appeal. The SBA satisfied the demanding standard for a stay of an injunction pending appeal, having shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits. Congress is not trying to regulate or suppress plaintiffs’ adult entertainment. It has simply chosen not to subsidize it. Such selective, categorical exclusions from a government subsidy do not offend the First Amendment. Plaintiffs were not singled out for this exclusion, even among businesses primarily engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment. Congress also excluded businesses “primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities.” View "Camelot Banquet Rooms, Inc. v. United States Small Business Administration" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255, arguing that his counsel was ineffective by not challenging whether his prior drug convictions were predicates, as Indiana law defined cocaine isomers more broadly than federal law.The Seventh Circuit concluded that, although petitioner forfeited his theory of ineffectiveness in the district court, it is subject to plain error review. The court also concluded that, because it was objectively reasonable for petitioner's counsel not to advise risking a mandatory life sentence to pursue the isomer argument, the district court did not plainly err in ruling that counsel's performance was constitutionally adequate. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief. View "Harris v. United States" on Justia Law

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Grainger, the victim of cyberattacks against its computer systems, isolated the source of the intrusions to a single internet protocol (IP) address, coming from a high-rise apartment building where disgruntled former employee Soybel lived. Grainger reported the attacks to the FBI, which obtained a court order under the Pen Register Act, 18 U.S.C. 3121, authorizing the installation of pen registers and “trap and trace” devices to monitor internet traffic in and out of the building generally and Soybel’s unit specifically. The pen registers were instrumental in confirming that Soybel unlawfully accessed Grainger’s system. The district court denied Soybel’s motion to suppress the pen-register evidence.The Seventh Circuit affirmed Soybel’s convictions under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The use of a pen register to identify IP addresses visited by a criminal suspect is not a Fourth Amendment “search” that requires a warrant. IP pen registers are analogous in all material respects to the telephone pen registers that the Supreme Court upheld against a Fourth Amendment challenge in 1979. The connection between Soybel’s IP address and external IP addresses was routed through a third party, an internet service provider. Soybel has no expectation of privacy in the captured routing information. The court distinguished historical cell-site location information, which implicates unique privacy interests that are absent here. The IP pen register had no ability to track Soybel’s past movements. View "United States v. Soybel" on Justia Law

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Kenosha officers McDonough and Kinzer responded to a 911 call from an apartment building’s manager who reported that there was a woman inside Ferguson’s apartment who was “causing problems” and did not live there. McDonough spoke with Rupp-Kent who was alone inside Ferguson’s apartment and who reported that Ferguson had been violent with her. McDonough observed bruises on Rupp-Kent’s leg and neck and saw the knife Ferguson purportedly pointed at her. McDonough learned that Ferguson was on probation for robbery, had his driving privileges revoked, and drove a Chrysler. He reviewed Ferguson’s booking photo. McDonough, in his squad completing the paperwork, saw Ferguson drive past and followed. The parties dispute the events that occurred as McDonough attempted to arrest Ferguson. McDonough ultimately deployed his taser for five seconds.Ferguson sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. McDonough moved for summary judgment, asserting qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion, concluding that genuine issues of material fact remained for a jury to decide. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal. McDonough and Ferguson offered competing accounts and the dashcam video of the incident did not conclusively support either party’s account. Under one version of the events, Ferguson was not resisting and a reasonable officer would have known that an officer’s substantial escalation of force in response to an individual’s passive resistance violated the individual’s Fourth Amendment rights against excessive force. View "Ferguson v. McDonough" on Justia Law