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The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in an action filed by an insurance company seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend the insured. The court held that it was the insured's responsibility to notify the insurance company that he had been in an accident that might lead to a claim; he failed to do so and his failure was inexcusable under Illinois law; and thus the insurance company had no duty to defend or indemnify the insured in the personal injury suit arising out of the accident. Accordingly, the insurance company was entitled to declaratory relief. View "State Auto Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Brumit Services, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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Plaintiffs, Jewish inmates at prisons operated by the Indiana Department of Corrections, were transferred from one DOC facility to another (Wabash Valley) in order to maintain a kosher diet. Plaintiffs allege that Liebel, the DOC Director of Religious and Volunteer Services, violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by failing to delay that transfer until the new facility offered opportunities for Jewish group worship and study. At the time of the transfer, the DOC was unable to recruit Jewish volunteers to Wabash Valley to lead worship or train inmate leaders. In their suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted Liebel summary judgment, citing qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that Liebel did not violate clearly established law. Plaintiffs cited no case holding that the Free Exercise Clause provides prisoners the right to group worship when outside volunteers were unavailable to lead or train inmates or holding that a prison official violates the Free Exercise Clause by transferring inmates to a facility that does not provide congregate worship and study, or by failing to delay a transfer until the new facility provides congregate worship and study. View "Kemp v. Liebel" on Justia Law

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After Foster pleaded guilty to illegal gun possession under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), the district court considered him to have three qualifying convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e), and imposed the minimum sentence of 15 years in prison. Foster had convictions for dealing in methamphetamine (a serious drug offense under ACCA), and Indiana robbery, an ACCA violent felony. Foster argued that his past conviction for Indiana’s Class B burglary of a dwelling was not a violent felony. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence, finding his argument foreclosed by 2017 circuit precedent. Determining whether burglary under a given state's law is a violent felony presents a categorical question that focuses exclusively on the state crime's elements and not on the facts underlying the conviction. The state crime’s elements must be the same as, or narrower than, the elements of generic burglary as defined by the Supreme Court so that the crime covers no more conduct than the generic offense. Indiana’s Class B felony burglary is committed while armed with a deadly weapon or if the building or structure is a dwelling: Indiana Class B burglary is a violent felony. View "United States v. Foster" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Brothers Daniel and John operated companies that offered remodeling services in Chicago. Through subcontractors, they performed legitimate work for clients who paid in cash, but they padded their profits by duping elderly, unsophisticated homeowners into refinancing their homes to pay substantial sums for work they never intended to finish. The Circuit Court of Cook County permanently enjoined both John and a company the brothers owned from engaging in home-repair in Chicago; the brothers circumvented the injunction by creating a new company and installing an employee as its nominal president. They falsified contracts to hide their fraudulent activity. The brothers were convicted of wire fraud and each was sentenced to 168 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed their sentences in 2014. They filed separate pro se collateral challenges under 28 U.S.C. 2255, each contending that their attorneys were constitutionally ineffective. The district judge denied both section 2255 motions without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Seventh Circuit granted Daniel a certificate of appealability, then rejected his claims that his attorneys rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance by failing to raise a “Batson” objection to the exclusion of potential jurors based on race and hire an expert witness to testify about the amount of loss attributable to Daniel for purposes of the Sentencing Guidelines. View "Sullivan v. United States" on Justia Law

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Halbach disappeared in 2005. Her family contacted police. Officers focused on Avery Auto Salvage in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, the last place she was known to have visited. Avery, who lived on the property, had called Auto Trader magazine, for whom Halbach worked, to request that she photograph a minivan that he wished to sell. The police suspected that Avery’s 16‐year‐old nephew, Dassey, who also lived on the property, might have information about Halbach and called Dassey into the police station. After many hours of interrogation over several days, Dassey confessed that he, with Avery, had raped and murdered Halbach and burned her body. Before trial, Dassey recanted. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. After unsuccessful state appeals and post‐conviction proceedings, Dassey sought federal habeas relief, claiming that he did not receive effective assistance of counsel and that his confession was not voluntary. The Seventh Circuit initially affirmed the district court in granting relief. On rehearing, en banc, the Seventh Circuit reversed, citing the deferential standards of 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). The state courts’ finding that Dassey’s confession was voluntary was not beyond fair debate, but was reasonable. View "Dassey v. Dittmann" on Justia Law

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After Son became a U.S. citizen in 2013, she filed a successful I-130 visa petition on Matushkina’s (her mother) behalf. A U.S. Consulate denied Matushkina's 2015 application for an immigrant visa based on a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 2009 determination, at the border, that she was inadmissible because Matushkina had not disclosed that her daughter was working in the U.S. in violation of her student visa, “a willful misrepresentation of a material fact,” 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(C)(i). Matushkina immediately withdrew her application for admission. The CBP officer entered the inadmissibility finding in the electronic system. Matushkina’s nonimmigrant visa was canceled; she promptly left the U.S. Seven years later Matushkina and Son filed suit, alleging that the 2009 inadmissibility determination violated the Administrative Procedures Act and that the CBP officer violated provisions of the CBP Inspector’s Field Manual and “due process and notions of fundamental fairness.” The court dismissed for lack of standing, As an unadmitted alien, Matushkina had no legally protected right to enter the U.S. Son had no standing because she was not yet a citizen in 2009. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, on the merits, reasoning that the case was, in essence, a challenge to the visa denial, and that decision is not subject to judicial review. View "Matushkina v. Davies" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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In 2007, Kaufman filed a class‐action lawsuit based on Amex’s sale of prepaid gift cards. The packaging declared the cards were “good all over.” Kaufman alleged that these cards were not worth their stated value and were not “good all over” because merchants were ill‐equipped to process “split‐tender” transactions when a holder attempted to purchase an item that cost more than the value remaining on his card. After 12 months Amex automatically charged a “monthly service fee” against card balances. Kaufman alleged Amex designed the program to make it difficult to exhaust the cards' balances. Following the denial of Amex’s motion to compel arbitration, settlement negotiations, and the entry of intervenors, the court certified the class for settlement purposes but denied approval of a settlement, citing the inadequacy of the proposed notice. Response to notices of a second proposed settlement was “abysmal.” A supplemental notice program provided notice to 70% of the class; the court again denied approval. After another round of notice, the court granted final approval in 2016, noting the small rate of opt‐outs and objectors. The court awarded $1,000,000 in fees and $40,000 in expenses to the Plaintiffs’ counsel, $250,000 to additional class counsel, and $700,000 in fees to intervenors' counsel: attorneys would receive $1,950,000. The court concluded the total value of the claims was $9.6 million, that, considering the number of claims and the value of supplemental programs, the total benefit to the class was $1.8 million, and that recovering $9.6 million was unlikely. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the court did not abuse its discretion, despite the settlement’s “issues.” View "Goodman v. American Express Travel Related Services Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(U) created a new nonimmigrant visa classification that permits immigrants who are victims of serious crimes and who assist law enforcement to apply for and receive a nonimmigrant visa called a U-visa. There is a statutory cap of 10,000 U-visas each fiscal year. Since 2009, the U-Visa backlog has increased from 21,138 to 177,340 pending applications. Calderon-Ramirez, a citizen of Guatemala, entered the U.S. in 2002 and was the victim of an attack in 2014. He filed a petition for U Nonimmigrant Status in February 2015 and is waiting to be evaluated for the waiting list. In 2016, he sought a writ of mandamus, to compel Homeland Security to adjudicate his petition. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit. Ramirez did not set forth any facts that differentiate himself from other petitioners waiting ahead of him for adjudication. While there are instances when the government can and will expedite a petition, Ramirez failed to present a situation appropriate to warrant such an action. The court stated that the wait Ramirez faces is not unreasonable. View "Calderon-Ramirez v. McCament" on Justia Law

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After losing his job at Mutual Bank, Conner filed a qui tam action claiming that the defendants, primarily directors or officers of the bank, had defrauded the government in violation of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733. The United States declined to take over the action, which Conner eventually settled. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation filed its own lawsuit against many of the same defendants. That case also settled. Conner claimed to be entitled to a share of the FDIC’s settlement proceeds and tried, unsuccessfully, to intervene in the FDIC’s case. He then filed a motion in his own suit action demanding part of the FDIC’s recovery. The district court denied that request on the ground that, because Conner’s attempt to intervene in the FDIC’s case was rejected, he is barred from litigating in this suit the question whether he has a cognizable interest in the settlement proceeds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that claim preclusion barred Conner’s recovery from the FDIC. View "Conner v. Mahajan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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In July 2013, Brown was sentenced to 300 days’ imprisonment for violating the terms of his probation. The Illinois circuit court specifically stated that Brown should be released in September 2013, after accounting for good‐time credit. In August 2013, Cook County Jail personnel informed Brown that he would not be released until March. In September 2013, Brown filed a state court petition for a writ of habeas corpus, but jail staff allegedly failed to transport him to court. On December 16, 2013, the petition was finally heard. The court determined Brown should have been released in September and immediately released him on a $50,000 bond. In January 2014, the court released the bond. Brown filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint, alleging violations of the Fourth and Eighth Amendments based on false imprisonment and inhumane conditions and a violation of Illinois state law based on false imprisonment. The district court granted the defendants judgment on the pleadings. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Because Brown was released from prison more than two years before he filed his claim, the suit was time-barred. The court rejected Brown's claim that the time he spent released on bond was a continuation of the false imprisonment View "Brown v. Dart" on Justia Law