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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Censke sought to bring a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit for injuries he says he suffered at the hands of Indiana federal prison guards. The FTCA required Censke to give notice in writing to the Bureau of Prisons within two years of the incident, 28 U.S.C. 2401(b), by sending form SF-95 to the regional office in which the injury happened. The Bureau considers claims filed when first received by any of its offices. Censke moved prisons six times in the two years following the alleged incident and lost access to his legal materials. He contends that the prison staff ignored his requests for an SF-95 form. When he got the form, he was in Kentucky. Censke asked the staff for the address of the Bureau’s North Central Regional Office. He says they refused to help. Nine days before the end of the limitations period, Censke placed his SF-95 form in the outgoing mail, addressed to the Bureau's Central Office in Washington, D.C. The Bureau stamped it as received at the North Central Regional Office on February 16, 2016—over two months after Censke put it in the mail. The Bureau denied the claim on the merits, without mentioning timeliness. Censke filed suit under the FTCA. The court concluded that the mailbox rules apply and rejected Censke’s arguments for equitable tolling and delayed accrual. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The prison-mailbox rule applies to administrative filings under the FTCA. View "Censke v. United States" on Justia Law

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Goodloe arrived at the Hill Correctional Center in July 2013 and immediately complained of pain from rectal bleeding. His pain continued despite treatments for hemorrhoids and anal warts. Goodloe wanted to see an outside specialist and filed several grievances. He repeatedly asserted that his pain was internal. In September 2014, Goodloe finally saw a specialist, and immediately diagnosed an anal fissure—a small tear in the anal tissue lining. Goodloe underwent surgery on October 3 and testified that he experienced instant pain relief. The rectal bleeding abated and eventually altogether stopped. The district court rejected, on summary judgment, Goodloe’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit reversed as to the deliberate indifference claims against one physician but affirmed with respect to a claim of retaliation. A reasonable jury could conclude that Dr. Sood’s persistence in the ineffective treatment, or his delay in getting Goodloe to an outside specialist, or both, amounted to deliberate indifference. The record lacked evidence permitting a finding that Dr. Sood made any treatment decision in response to Goodloe’s submission of multiple grievances. View "Goodloe v. Sood" on Justia Law

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Under Ind. Code 31-14-7-1(1), a husband is presumed to be a child’s biological father; both spouses are listed as parents on the birth certificate and the child is deemed to be born in wedlock. There is no similar presumption with respect to a same-sex couple. The district court issued an injunction requiring Indiana to treat children born into female-female marriages as having two female parents, who must be listed on the birth certificate. Because Indiana lists only two parents on a birth certificate, this prevents the state from treating as a parent the man who provided the sperm but requires that one spouse, who provided neither sperm nor egg, be identified as a parent. The court reasoned that Indiana lists a husband as a biological parent (when a child is born during marriage) even if he did not provide sperm, and must treat a wife as a parent even if she did not provide an egg. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing the Supreme Court’s 2017 holding, Pavan v. Smith, that same-sex and opposite-sex couples must have the same rights with respect to the identification of children’s parentage on birth certificates. Indiana’s statutory presumption violates the Constitution. The court rejected the state’s arguments that the statutory presumption is rebuttable. View "Henderson v. Box" on Justia Law

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Day, age 18, weighed 312 pounds and had an underlying heart condition. Day was confronted outside a store after apparently shoplifting a watch. Day refused to return to the store. A mall security officer noticed Day had a gun. A chase ensued; Day eventually collapsed. Police arrived. Day’s gun was out of his reach. Officers handcuffed Day behind his back. Day stated he was having trouble breathing; officers instructed him to take deep breaths. Day would not maintain a seated position. Officers positioned Day to lie on his side to prevent Day from asphyxiating by rolling onto his stomach. An ambulance arrived to evaluate Day five minutes later. Day appeared to breathe normally, stated he had no preexisting medical conditions and was able to speak clearly. After multiple tests, paramedics concluded Day did not need to go to a hospital. When the jail wagon arrived, Day was unresponsive, lying on his back with his hands still cuffed. A second ambulance arrived 43 minutes after the first. Day was pronounced dead. There were no visible signs of trauma. The autopsy report listed his cause of death as “Sudden Cardiac Death due to Acute Ischemic Change” with contributory causes: “Sustained respiratory compromise due to hands cuffed behind the back, obesity, underlying cardiomyopathy.” Day had never complained about the handcuffs. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the court concluded the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit reversed. There is no precedent clearly establishing that the officers violated any right of an out-of-breath arrestee to not have his hands cuffed behind his back after he complains of difficulty breathing. There was no evidence that the handcuffs were the cause of Day’s breathing difficulty before the autopsy report. View "Day v. Wooten" on Justia Law

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In 1998, an Illinois state court convicted Williams, a teenager, of first‐degree murder. Williams was paroled in 2008 but had his parole revoked after pleading guilty to domestic battery. In 2017, he traded cocaine to his employer for a firearm. His employer cooperated with the government. Williams pled guilty to possession of a firearm as a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2). The court confirmed Williams’s admission that he possessed a firearm; that the firearm had traveled in interstate commerce; and that he had been convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year. The court sentenced him to 96 months’ imprisonment, below the Guidelines range. Four months later, the Supreme Court held that an element of a conviction under section 922(g), 924(a)(2), is the defendant’s knowledge of his status as a felon or alien illegally in the U.S. The government would have needed to prove—or Williams to admit—that he knew he had “been convicted in any court of[] a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” Williams sought to vacate his conviction and withdraw his guilty plea. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction. Williams failed to carry the burden of showing that his erroneous understanding of section 922(g) affected his decision to plead guilty. Williams cannot plausibly argue that he did not know his conviction had a maximum punishment exceeding a year. Williams would have to convince a jury that he either had no knowledge of where he spent 12 years or that he believed Illinois had imprisoned him 11 years beyond the maximum punishment for first‐degree murder. Most defendants would want to avoid informing the jury of a murder conviction. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Subdiaz‐Osorio stabbed his brother to death during a drunken fight in Wisconsin. He attempted to flee but was stopped in Arkansas while driving to Mexico. At Subdiaz‐Osorio’s request, the interview in Arkansas was conducted in Spanish. Neither Subdiaz‐Osorio nor Officer Torres had any trouble understanding each other. Subdiaz‐Osorio signed a waiver of his Miranda rights, indicating that he understood his rights. During the interview, after discussing the extradition process, Subdiaz‐Osorio asked in Spanish, “How can I do to get an attorney here because I don’t have enough to afford for one?” The officer responded: If you need an attorney‐‐by the time you’re going to appear in the court, the state of Arkansas will get an attorney for you. The interview continued for an hour with Subdiaz-Osorio’s full cooperation. Denying a motion to suppress, the court concluded that Subdiaz‐Osorio’s question about an attorney was not a request to have an attorney with him during the interview; he was asking about how he could obtain an attorney for the extradition hearing. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed, that Subdiaz‐Osorio did not unequivocally invoke his Fifth Amendment right to counsel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Subdiaz‐Osorio’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). The state court finding was not contrary to or based on an unreasonable application of established Supreme Court precedent. View "Subdiaz-Osorio v. Humphreys" on Justia Law

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The Chicago Police Department (CPD) periodically administered an examination for sergeants seeking promotion to lieutenant. While the CPD retained discretion over whom to promote, those who scored highest on the exam were generally first in line. Word has served with the CPD since 2001. When he took the exam in 2006, he was ranked 150th. The sergeants ranked 1-149 received promotions; Word was the highest-scoring sergeant who did not. In 2015, when Word next took the exam, his ranking fell to 280th. He was passed over. Word alleges that three senior CPD leaders each had “wives or paramours” who were sergeants who took the 2015 exam and then received promotions. Word alleges that one defendant had early access to the exam and provided test content to the wives and paramours. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit, which alleged violations of equal protection and due process under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and breach of contract. While Illinois law prohibits “wilfully or corruptly furnish[ing] to any person any special or secret information,” there is no property interest in any municipal promotional process. Class-of-one equal protection claims are barred in the public employment context. Word’s s theory does not amount to gender discrimination. There was no contract and Word has not plausibly alleged that the city and exam administrator intended to confer legally enforceable rights on the test takers. View "Word v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Barnes works in facilities management at UIC, reporting to Donovan. UIC hired Barnes in 2008 as an operating engineer and later promoted him to assistant chief engineer. In 2015, a chief engineer retired. UIC identified 11 candidates, including Barnes, who received one of the top-three exam scores and met the minimum qualifications. Barnes and another candidate were African-American; nine candidates were white. Donavan interviewed the candidates without looking at personnel files or performance evaluations. Donovan selected Civito. Civito and Barnes both have several decades of education and relevant experience. Donovan had interviewed Barnes for 15-30 minutes. Barnes did not bring anything with him to the interview, nor had he been asked to. Donovan interviewed Civito for about 20 minutes. Civito, unprompted, brought written materials including his résumé, a letter of reference, a proposal to solve problems with a UIC building, and training items he developed. Barnes sued, alleging that UIC had a practice of not promoting African-Americans to the chief engineer level. Barnes learned during discovery that in performance reviews by the same supervisor, he had received a higher score than Civito. Donovan claimed that he selected Civito because he came to his interview fully prepared,, articulated the most thoughtful approach to the position and demonstrated a commitment to professional development. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Barnes lacked sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case of discrimination or to allow the inference that the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason offered for hiring Civito was pretextual. View "Barnes v. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois" on Justia Law

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Chicago officers Valadez and Reyes, in an unmarked police car patrolling a neighborhood where a gang-related shooting had recently occurred, saw a passenger in Cruz’s Chevy Tahoe fire gunshots at the occupants of another car. Cruz sped away. The officers followed Cruz’s Tahoe, which had dark, tinted windows, but did not activate emergency lights or sirens. Cruz turned and struck a parked car, pushing it forward into a second car, which rolled into a third. Cruz kept driving before crashing into another car and coming to a stop. The officers parked behind Cruz’s Tahoe, believing that it had stalled. Valadez began getting out of the car, announcing that he was a police officer. Cruz put his Tahoe into reverse, striking the police car, then pulled forward into a parking lot. The officers followed on foot, wearing bulletproof vests that displayed the police star. The parking lot was “pretty well lit.” Cruz’s passenger testified that he knew that Valadez was an officer because he could see Valadez’s vest. Cruz did not stop but turned back toward the exit. Cruz’s headlights shone directly at the officers, who opened fire. Cruz died as a result of a gunshot wound. Approximately 90 seconds elapsed from the initial shots until Cruz was shot; roughly 16 seconds elapsed during the encounter in the parking lot. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The officers acted reasonably in using deadly force to protect others in the vicinity by preventing Cruz's escape. View "Ybarra v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Drug Enforcement Administration investigated Dr. Ley and his opioid addiction treatment company, DORN, conducted undercover surveillance, and decided Ley did not have a legitimate medical purpose in prescribing Suboxone. Indiana courts issued warrants, culminating in arrests of four physicians and one nurse and seven non-provider DORN employees. Indiana courts dismissed the charges against the non-providers and the nurse. Ley was acquitted; the state dismissed the charges against the remaining providers. DORN’s providers and non-provider employees sued, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, and civil conspiracy. The district court entered summary judgment for the defendants, holding probable cause supported the warrants at issue. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as to every plaintiff except Mackey, a part-time parking lot attendant. One of Ley’s former patients died and that individual’s family expressed concerns about Ley; other doctors voiced concerns, accusing Ley of prescribing Suboxone for pain to avoid the 100-patient limit and bring in more revenue. At least one pharmacy refused to fill DORN prescriptions. Former patients reported that they received their prescriptions without undergoing any physical exam. DORN physicians prescribed an unusually high amount of Suboxone; two expert doctors opined that the DORN physicians were not prescribing Suboxone for a legitimate medical purpose. There was evidence that the non-provider employees knew of DORN’s use of pre-signed prescriptions and sometimes distributed them. There were, however, no facts alleged in the affidavit that Mackey was ever armed, impeded investigations, handled money, or possessed narcotics. View "Vierk v. Whisenand" on Justia Law