Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Lewis, a Wisconsin prisoner, claimed in his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, that staff at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility violated the Eighth Amendment by delaying medical attention for a painful back condition and then using excessive force when eventually taking him to the hospital. Lewis also claimed that a nurse and a physician committed malpractice under state law. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit vacated, noting a failure to preserve videotaped evidence showing Lewis in his cell; rejecting a claim of qualified immunity; and stating that a jury reasonably could find that two of the defendants, a nurse and the security supervisor were deliberately indifferent to Lewis’s serious medical need and unnecessarily prolonged his pain. View "Lewis v. McLean" on Justia Law

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Facing the possibility of two life sentences, Schneider pleaded guilty to sexually abusing his minor daughter, 18 U.S.C. 2243(a)(1). The court warned Schneider five times that it could impose a sentence as high as 15 years’ imprisonment and that if the guidelines range turned out to be “closer to five years or above,” that, alone, would not be a reason for Schneider to withdraw his guilty plea. Schneider said he understood; the district court accepted his plea. After a change in appointed lawyers, Schneider unsuccessfully moved to withdraw his plea following the release of the PSR, which recommended that Schneider receive a five-level upward adjustment as a “repeat and dangerous sex offender against minors,” U.S.S.G. 4B1.5. The district court sentenced him below the guidelines range to 96 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that his plea was involuntary. Schneider filed a collateral challenge, arguing that his trial lawyer was ineffective for advising him that he met the statutory elements of the offense of sexual abuse of a minor and for not explaining that his prior conduct could be considered during sentencing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of relief, noting Schneider’s efforts to get his daughter to recant, and the testimony of his first attorney about his statements to Schneider. The district court’s findings on direct appeal are the law of the case; Schneider’s claims are implausible. View "Schneider v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff owned and lived on a 400-acre estate and horse farm in Barrington Hills, Illinois, leasing the horse farm, “Horizon Farms,” to their company, Royalty Farms, LLC, which managed the farm’s operations. Their mortgage was foreclosed in 2013. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County bought the property at the foreclosure sale. Royalty Farms was not a party to the foreclosure proceeding, but the court entered a Dispossession Order, directing Plaintiff to vacate the property. The Forest Preserve District apparently tolerated the continued presence of several horses while plaintiff continued visiting the property daily to care for them. After nine months Plaintiff was arrested and prosecuted for criminal trespass. She was acquitted because the judge could not conclusively determine that she had been told not to enter the property. A year later she filed suit, claiming false arrest and malicious prosecution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Regardless of whether Plaintiff entered the property as an employee of Royalty Farms, there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for criminal trespass; she acknowledged receiving an emailed warning and defying it and she was aware of the court order. View "Squires-Cannon v. Forest Preserve District of Cook County" on Justia Law

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Officers found a loaded revolver in Sandidge’s living room while investigating a report that he attempted to sexually assault a woman at gunpoint. Sandidge pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The judge imposed a sentence of 92 months in prison plus two years of supervised release. Sandidge's alcohol abuse played a role in the crime and in his earlier criminal conduct. The court imposed a special supervised-release condition prohibiting the use of any mood-altering substance. The Seventh Circuit remanded for resentencing in light of cases requiring a particularized explanation of conditions of supervised release. On resentencing the judge prohibited the “excessive use of alcohol,” defined as including “any use of alcohol that adversely affects [the] defendant’s employment, relationships, or ability to comply with the conditions of supervision.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed as modified. The vagueness doctrine requires that legal mandates be clear enough to give fair notice to those who must comply and to guard against arbitrary enforcement. The “adversely affects” language is loose and indeterminate, raising concerns about arbitrariness in enforcement. The court modified the condition to prohibit the use of alcohol that “materially adversely affects the defendant’s employment, relationships, or ability to comply with the conditions of supervision.” View "United States v. Sandidge" on Justia Law

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Police used a confidential source to buy heroin from registered sex offender Fifer. They obtained a state court warrant to search for evidence including cell phones and computers. They discovered a half‐naked 16‐year‐old girl (C) under a bed. C initially refused to come out and lied about her name and age. An officer attempted to identify her by looking through electronic devices found in the apartment. When the officer found sexually explicit images of C and Fifer, he brought in the sex‐crimes division, which secured C’s cooperation. C. revealed that she and Fifer lived together and had produced sex videos. Police got a federal warrant to search the electronic devices for child pornography. The application did not mention the initial on‐site search but was based on C.T.’s statements. Its execution revealed sexually explicit images of C and Fifer. Fifer was charged with producing child pornography, 18 U.S.C. 2251(a), (e). The court found probable cause, denied a motion to suppress, and admitted Fifer’s prior sex offender conviction after Fifer testified that his “sole purpose” was to enhance their loving relationship. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Fifer’s convictions. The affidavit supporting the state warrant clearly established at least a probability of criminal activity at Fifer’s apartment and no reasonably well‐trained officer would have believed that the search was illegal. Exigent circumstances justified the on-site search of the electronic devices. Fifer’s proffered evidence of his knowledge of C's age or their “loving relationship” was irrelevant to whether he violated the statute, Accurately identifying witnesses by their titles did not impermissibly bolster their testimony. View "United States v. Fifer" on Justia Law

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In 1992, Oaks was indicted in Illinois for the murder of his girlfriend’s three‐year‐old son. Oaks had no income or assets. His family provided $2,000 to retain an attorney, who asked for state funds for expert witnesses: an investigator, a forensic pathologist, a mitigation expert, and a psychiatrist. The court denied the request. The lawyer withdrew, asserting that the ruling made him unable to represent his client “in good conscience.” The court appointed a public defender. Oaks was convicted and sentenced to death. Oaks did not raise the choice of counsel in his direct appeal. Oaks first raised that issue in a pro se post‐conviction petition filed in state court and asserted that his appellate counsel had been ineffective in failing to raise the issue on direct appeal. The court appointed post‐conviction counsel, who filed an amended petition that did not raise either the choice of counsel claim or the appellate counsel claim. The trial court then dismissed the petition as moot and lacking merit. Oaks filed a federal habeas petition, raising the choice of counsel issue and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel issues. The district court denied the petition. The court held and the Seventh Circuit affirmed that those claims had been procedurally defaulted and lacked merit. View "Oaks v. Pfister" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Pittman, a pretrial detainee in the Madison County, Illinois, jail, hanged himself in his cell. He did not die, but he sustained brain damage that has left him in a vegetative state, cared for entirely by his mother with no government benefits. Pittman left a suicide note in which he said that he was killing himself because the guards were “fucking” with him by not letting him see crisis counselors. In a suit under the Eighth Amendment, the district court granted defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed as to two guards. A jury then returned a verdict in favor of both defendants. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Another inmate, Banovz, stated that in the five days preceding Pittman’s suicide attempt, the guards ignored Pittman’s requests to see the crisis staff. Three hours after the suicide attempt a county detective obtained a 25-minute interview with Banovz about the attempt, which was captured on video. The video was not admitted at trial, even though Banovz’s testimony was the lynchpin of the plaintiff’s case and the defendants had stipulated to the showing of the video. While Banovz testified at trial, the passage of seven years had dimmed his recollection and his demeanor at trial was notably different from his demeanor in the video. The court stated it had “no assurance that Pittman’s claim was fairly tried.” View "Pittman v. Madison County" on Justia Law

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Simpson fell off an upper bunk while incarcerated in the Bartholomew County Jail for a drunken driving conviction. Simpson was intoxicated when he reported to the jail to serve his weekend stay. Officers placed him in a holding cell. After they thought he was sober, they assigned him to an upper bunk, although he was obese. While sleeping, Simpson went into convulsions and fell off the bunk on to the concrete floor. He died from his injuries. His estate sued, arguing that the conditions under which the jail kept Simpson and the care he received were inadequate under the Eighth Amendment. The district court found insufficient evidence to show the defendants were aware of, but disregarded, a risk to Simpson’s health and safety and granted them summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The defendants tailored their care for Simpson to account for his intoxication, even asking Simpson if he was experiencing any withdrawal symptoms. Simpson said no. The deputies believed he was sober when they moved him. Had they known about Simpson’s alcoholism and the risk posed by withdrawal, they might have taken additional steps to protect him. Without any indication that they knew of a serious risk, they cannot be held liable under section 1983 for either the conditions of confinement or the medical treatment they provided. View "Estate of Simpson v. Gorbett" on Justia Law

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Proctor, an Illinois prisoner who was confined for seven years at Hill Correctional Center, suffers from chronic abdominal pain and spasms in his colon. He sued medical providers working at Hill for Wexford Health Sources, the contractor providing healthcare to Illinois prisoners, and corrections officials, claiming that they violated the Eighth Amendment by not ordering a colonoscopy and endoscopy to diagnose his persistent abdominal pain. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A jury could not reasonably find that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to Proctor’s medical condition. Proctor’s abdominal pain and colon spasms were investigated thoroughly, and that investigation substantiated only a diagnosis of IBS. Over the course of treating him, the medical professionals routinely performed physical exams and ordered X‐rays, an ultrasound, bloodwork, stool cultures, and other tests, but the results were consistently normal. The decision whether further diagnostic testing— like a colonoscopy—was necessary is “a classic example of a matter for medical judgment. View "Proctor v. Sood" on Justia Law

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Gary Jet began operating as a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at the Authority's Gary/Chicago International Airport in 1991. The 2006 “Minimum Standards,” regulations governing FBOs, contained a 1.5% charge on gross revenue for commercial FBO services beginning in 2001, “pending the expiration of existing leases which do not incorporate these terms.” Gary Jet’s lease did not contain this provision. During negotiations for a new lease, the parties agreed that Gary Jet would instead pay “supplemental rent” of 10% of certain fees. A January 2007 “First Amended Lease” with a 39-year term, required Gary Jet to pay base rent plus supplemental rent and stated Gary Jet “shall abide by” the Minimum Standards, except when they conflict with the 2007 Lease. The lease stated that the Minimum Standards “shall be … made applicable to” subsequent lease agreements. In 2013, Gary Jet sued for breach of contract. The parties entered settled in 2014. Gary Jet agreed that New Minimum Standards controlled any conflict with its lease. A 2014 revised lease stated that the Minimum Standards controlled any conflicts. The initial draft of new Minimum Standards did not require Gary Jet to pay a percentage of gross revenue. In 2015, the Authority stated that it intended require that each FBO pay a percentage of gross revenues. Gary Jet objected, but the Authority approved the New Minimum Standards with the provision. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of Gary Jet’s suit under the Contracts Clause. Gary Jet cannot plausibly demonstrate that it is without a remedy for any violation of its contractual rights, which is essential to a Contracts-Clause claim. View "Gary Jet Center, Inc. v. AFCO AvPORTS Management, LLC" on Justia Law