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

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
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In 2005, Martinez, Vallejo, and 47 others were indicted for crimes committed while they were members of the Milwaukee chapter of the Latin Kings gang organization. Martinez and Vallejo pled guilty to a RICO offense, 18 U.S.C. 1962, and admitted to engaging in predicate racketeering activities, including a 2003 murder. Vallejo, who was 17 years old at the time, and Martinez, who was 16, each fired several shots at the victim. Martinez also pled guilty to attempted murder of a rival gang member; Vallejo’s plea agreement included two attempted murders. All of the attempted murders occurred while the defendants were under the age of 18. In both cases, the court imposed the “maximum sentence”—life in prison.. Neither Martinez nor Vallejo filed a direct appeal. In 2012, the Supreme Court held, in Miller v. Alabama, that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for juveniles. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of their motion to vacate, set aside, or correct their sentences under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Martinez and Vallejo’s life sentences were imposed after an individualized sentencing, and not by statutory mandate,and did not violate Miller. View "Vallejo v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1999, detainees at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center claimed that Center personnel abused detainees. Eight years into the certified class action, the court appointed a “Transitional Administrator” to run the Center in compliance with state and federal requirements. State law, effective in 2008, moved the Center’s management from the county’s political branches to the Circuit Court of Cook County, 55 ILCS 75/3(b), and required the Chief Judge to appoint a new head within 180 days. When the case was argued in 2011, the appointment had not been made. In 2009 the Transitional Administrator proposed reorganization, which would terminate about 225 union employees. The union for Center employees intervened. The district court rejected its position that the proposal would violate several statutes and authorized the implementation, stating that collective-bargaining rights must give way, as a matter of Illinois law, when necessary to effective management. The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting that the judge did not find that overriding the right to bargain was essential to solve any constitutional problem at the Center or about the necessity for a particular remedy to cure any violation. The plan has been in effect for years, and restoring union members to their old positions is not possible. View "Doe v. Teamsters Local Union" on Justia Law

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For the second time, Croft sought the Seventh Circuit’s approval to pursue a successive petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254, relying primarily on the 2012 Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama, that the Eighth Amendment forbids sentences of mandatory life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders. Because he was 17 when he committed murder, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated sexual assault, Croft argues that his sentence of natural life imprisonment without parole for the murder is unconstitutional under Miller. The Seventh Circuit denied the petition, stating that even if it were to hold that Miller applies retroactively on collateral review, Miller is inapplicable to Croft’s case. Life sentences for murder are discretionary under Illinois law, a critical difference from the situation presented in Miller, which considered only “mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.” The sentencing court explicitly stated that it had considered the presentence report, which discussed Croft’s age. The appellate court underscored the discretionary nature of Croft’s sentence when it reviewed the ample justifications supporting it, including the fact that Croft’s crimes were among the most brutal the court had ever seen. View "Croft v. Williams" on Justia Law

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In December, 2005, Chicago police officers Malaniuk and Shields arrested then-14-year-old Barber. Barber claims that the arrest was without probable cause and that Malaniuk used excessive force in shoving him into a holding cell, causing him to strike his head on a hard surface. The officers deny those allegations and say that the head injury occurred because Barber was intoxicated and fell over his own feet. In Barber’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1982, a jury sided with the defendants. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded, finding merit in Barber’s claims that the district court erred when it allowed defense counsel to cross-examine him about a subsequent arrest for underage drinking and about his intervening felony conviction. View "Terrence Barber v. City of Chicago, et al" on Justia Law

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Six-year-old D.B. and five-year-old twins C.C. and her brother W.C., were “playing doctor” in D.B.’s backyard when the twins’ mother arrived. She interpreted D.B.’s conduct as a sexual assault of her daughter and reported to the Department of Social Services. The Sheriff’s Department also responded. After an aggressive investigation, the District Attorney filed a petition alleging that D.B. had committed first-degree sexual assault and was in need of public protection or services. The petition was not adjudicated; the case was closed by consent decree. D.B.’s parents filed a civil-rights suit, alleging that county officials overzealously investigated and maliciously prosecuted D.B. They asserted a “class of one” equal-protection claim, noting that the twins engaged in the same behavior as D.B., but the twins’ father is a “high-ranking local political figure.” The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Allegations of improper subjective motive are not enough to state a class-of-one equal-protection claim; a complaint must allege sufficient facts to plausibly show that the plaintiff was treated differently from others similarly situated and that the discriminatory treatment was wholly arbitrary and irrational. Here, there was an objective rational basis for disparate treatment. The twins’ mother witnessed D.B.’s conduct and reported it; there was no adult witness to the twins’ behavior. View "Kurtis B. v. Kopp" on Justia Law

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The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed Woods, then seven years old from his parents’ home in 1991 and placed him in a residential treatment facility. There had been many reports of sexual abuse among residents of the facility and Woods, claiming to have been abused by another resident, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the suit as untimely because Woods failed to bring his claim within two years of its accrual, rejecting Woods’s contention that the 20-year limitations period applicable in Illinois to personal injury claims based on childhood sexual abuse applied. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The limitations period applicable to all Section 1983 claims brought in Illinois is two years, as provided in 735 ILCS 5/13-202, and this includes claims involving allegations of failure to protect from childhood sexual abuse. View "Woods v. IL Dep't of Children & Family Servs." on Justia Law

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The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, runs a number of youth detention facilities. Jamal, age 16, had a history of mental illness and was known to have attempted suicide at least three times when he arrived at one of those facilities in 2008. His intake assessment noted a history of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, major depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, behavior disorders, and anger and drug abuse counseling. His behavioral history included delinquency, gang affiliations, anger, aggression, setting of fires, cruelty to animals, putting a gun to a cousin’s head, threatening to kill teachers, learning disabilities, alcohol abuse, and cannabis use. Jamal denied that he had manic or depressive symptoms, that he was depressed, or that he had experienced suicidal thoughts since his June 2008 attempt; the intake doctor prescribed Prozac and lithium. Jamal was noncompliant, had disciplinary problems, and was periodically evaluated for suicide risk before he committed suicide by hanging himself from a bunk bed. In his mother’s suit, alleging deliberate indifference to Jamal’s serious mental illness, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Miller v. Nordstrom" on Justia Law

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Racine County Human Services Department caseworker Wagner removed Thor, a 12-year-old, from his parents’ home and placed him into protective custody. Thor suffers from cerebral palsy, global developmental delay, and is confined to a wheelchair. Wagner investigated after receiving a referral from personnel at Thor’s school concerning bruising on his arm and leg. A judge issued a probable cause order for removal, based on evidence of Thor’s injuries and that he had been left unattended. Thor suffered additional injuries as a result of accidents that occurred in foster care and at a rehabilitation facility. Thor’s mother and stepfather and Thor sued Wagner, his supervisor, another caseworker, and her supervisor, alleging violations of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 42 U.S.C. 1985. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on qualified immunity grounds and because plaintiffs failed to establish sufficient evidence of racial animus. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity for any alleged violation of plaintiffs’ right to familial relations; for any alleged breach of Thor’s right to bodily security and integrity based on the decision to continue his placements; and for any alleged breach of Thor’s right to individualized treatment. View "Xiong v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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A suit on behalf of a 14-year-old, eighth grade boy alleged that the failure of the public school district to prevent sexual abuse by a female teacher violated the student’s rights under Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681, and constituted negligent infliction of emotional distress under Wisconsin law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the school district; claims against the teacher remain pending. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. In a private suit under Title IX, a school district cannot be held liable on the ground of respondeat superior for an employee’s violation absent proof of actual notice and deliberate indifference. That other teachers suspected improper conduct and administrators investigated and accepted the teacher’s denials does not establish knowledge or deliberate indifference. . View "N. R. Doe v. St. Francis Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff taught sixth-grade at a public school and met with a student’s parents about a threat the student had made against another student. He met the parents again after seeing the student beating another student. The father threatened a lawsuit and told plaintiff that an older son, who had assaulted the assistant principal, should have assaulted plaintiff. During a subsequent class, the student used an assignment to write a song with lyrics about stabbing plaintiff. The police liaison encouraged plaintiff to file criminal charges; under Illinois law declaring a knowing threat of violence against a person at a school is disorderly conduct, 720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(13). School administrators feared a suit and were not supportive. After plaintiff filed charges, his evaluations went from satisfactory to unsatisfactory and administrators advised him that they would recommend that he not be rehired. Plaintiff resigned and filed suit, claiming retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants on the ground that the complaint was not protected by the First Amendment because it did not involve a matter of public concern. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Principles underlying the suit are well settled, which defeats claims of qualified immunity. View "Gschwind v. Heiden" on Justia Law