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Indiana University and faculty members, claiming interference with medical scholarship, challenged a state statute, providing that “[a] person who intentionally acquires, receives, sells, or transfers fetal tissue commits unlawful transfer of fetal tissue, a Level 5 felony,” Ind. Code 35‐46‐5‐1.5(d). A federal district court held that several terms in the statute were unconstitutionally vague and that it must be treated as if it read: “A person who intentionally sells fetal tissue commits unlawful transfer of fetal tissue, a Level 5 felony.” The definitional clause, as enacted, read: “As used in this section, ‘fetal tissue’ includes tissue, organs, or any other part of an aborted fetus.” The court held it must be treated as if it read: “As used in this section, ‘fetal tissue’ includes tissue or organs of an aborted fetus.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. A federal judge cannot definitively interpret Indiana statutes but the state judiciary can do so in a declaratory judgment suit. Instead of using an available state‐law remedy, the plaintiffs asked a federal court to invalidate the law. The statute survives an equal‐protection challenge under a rational basis test. The law regulates conduct, not speech and does not discriminate against interstate commerce. A Takings Clause claim is confined to the University but the University, as part of Indiana, is not entitled to sue the state. View "Trustees of Indiana University v. Curry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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Illinois law requires sex offenders to register with the police. Offenders with a fixed residence were required to register either every 90 days or annually; homeless offenders were to report weekly. Some Chicago officers thought the weekly requirement was burdensome and “steered” offenders to identify a residence. Officers directed Regains to a homeless shelter, which they listed as his permanent address, and to return for re-registration in 90 days. When he reported three months later, Regains was arrested on an “investigative alert,” because other officers had not been able to locate Regains at the address provided. Regains remained in custody 17 months before the Illinois trial court found him not guilty of failing to a report a change of address. Regains sued the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the claim as time-barred under Illinois’ two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims and found that the amended complaint lacked sufficient factual details to give fair notice. The Seventh Circuit reversed, concluding that the claim accrued when Regains was released from custody. The court remanded, noting that it will be difficult for Regains to amend his complaint to allege a policy or practice, widespread enough to constitute a custom and that high-ranking Department members knew of the differing practices and allowed them to continue. View "Regains v. Chicago" on Justia Law

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Walker was charged with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. During his detention awaiting trial, the government discovered that Walker and his associates had bribed witnesses to testify falsely on his behalf at his upcoming trial. The grand jury returned a superseding indictment, adding one count charging Walker with conspiring to obstruct justice. He pleaded guilty to both counts of the superseding indictment. The district court imposed sentences of 80 months’ imprisonment for each count, to be served concurrently, plus three years of supervised release. The district court recommended to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that Walker should not receive credit for time served before the date the superseding indictment was filed, because of his conduct leading to the addition of the obstruction of justice charge. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the district court improperly left to the BOP the calculation of credit for his time served before trial and that he should receive credit for all the time he spent in custody between his arrest and the superseding indictment. Congress has committed the responsibility for the calculation of credit for pretrial confinement to the BOP; the court has the discretion to make a recommendation as to whether pretrial credit is appropriate. View "United States v. Walker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Surviving Mustang fighter planes are collectors’ items. In 1965 Vartanian bought a Mustang, serial number 44-74543 and kept it in a Fulton County New York hangar. In 1985 Vartanian's representative could not find it. Vartanian suspected Martin, who had promised to restore the plane. Vartanian’s lawyer unsuccessfully demanded that Martin return the plane. Vartanian complained to the FAA, the FBI, and local police. Martin denied taking Vartanian’s plane. Martin later registered with the FAA a Mustang, serial number 44-63655. Martin asserts that it was cobbled together using parts from a plane that crashed in Nicaragua plus components acquired from several sources. In 1998 Martin sold 44-63655 to Greenhill. Vartanian learned about this transaction in 2002 or 2003 by reading a magazine article that incorrectly identified it as 44-74543. Vartanian hired another lawyer, who died before filing suit. Vartanian did not follow up until after learning in 2013 that there were irregularities in the serial numbers of several of Martin’s planes. Vartanian demanded that Greenhill return the plane. Greenhill sought a declaratory judgment of ownership. Vartanian filed counterclaims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the counterclaims were untimely and that the aircraft is free of Vartanian's claim. Although federal law provides the registration system, state law supplies the rules for determining ownership, 49 U.S.C. 44108(c)(1). For conversion claims, Illinois law establishes a five-year limitations period that starts when the injured party “knows or reasonably should know” of the injury and its cause. Vartanian knew in 1985 that his Mustang had vanished; he suspected Martin immediately and knew long ago what serial number Martin was using. Even if Illinois would not apply a statute of limitations, the doctrine of laches would remain. View "Greenhill v. Vartanian" on Justia Law

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Briggins pleaded guilty in 2017 to committing multiple bank robberies. In 1999, he had been convicted of 10 bank robberies and sentenced to 84 months’ imprisonment. The number of criminal history points to be added for the 1999 robberies depended on whether that term reflected one sentence or multiple concurrent sentences. The PSR concluded that Briggins received 10 concurrent sentences but recognized that Briggins’s criminal history points needed to account for the reality that he was charged with all 10 robberies in the same indictment, pleaded guilty in the same proceeding, and faced sentencing on the same day and recommended that Briggins receive six criminal history points: three from USSG 4A1.1(a), which requires sentencing courts to “[a]dd 3 points for each prior sentence of imprisonment exceeding one year and one month” and three points from 4A1.1(e), which applies where a defendant is convicted of multiple offenses charged in the same indictment or receives multiple sentences on the same day and limits the maximum number of additional points to three. Applying 4A1.1(e) meant that only three additional points were allowed for Briggins’s nine robberies not encompassed by 4A1.1(a). The resulting advisory guidelines range was 77-96 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence of 96 months. View "United States v. Briggins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Sansone, a Postal Service employee since 1981, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991. By 1999, he used a wheelchair. He parked in a reserved space near the loading docks, where there was room to deploy his wheelchair ramp. In 2011, the manager, Branch, asked Sansone to stop parking there, citing safety concerns and offering Sansone a handicapped spot in front of the building or a reserved space in the back. Neither provided space to deploy his ramp; spots in the back would require him to travel along a busy truck route in the dark. With permission from his supervisor, Sansone continued to park in his usual place, while seeking help from Grieser, chair of the Reasonable Accommodation Committee. Branch threatened to have his van towed. Sansone panicked, experienced chest pain, and left work. His doctor recommended that he stay home until the situation was rectified and prescribed medication. Grieser asked Sansone to provide medical information about his “condition and the specific limitations.” The letter exacerbated Sansone’s frustration because the Service knew that he was confined to a wheelchair. Sansone did not provide the information but claimed that the stress had rendered him unable to return to work. He was granted disability retirement, then sued under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 791 for constructive discharge and failure to accommodate. The court granted the Service summary judgment on constructive discharge. Sansone won $300,000 in compensatory damages for failure to accommodate. On Sansone’s equitable claim for back and front pay, the court awarded $828,774. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part, upholding a jury instruction about an employee’s obligation to cooperate with his employer in identifying a reasonable accommodation but finding an instruction about how the jury should evaluate the Service’s expert witness (on the issue of compensatory damages) “wrong and prejudicial.” View "Sansone v. Brennan" on Justia Law

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Salgado conspired with Lorenzo (his father) and others to distribute heroin, using a Bensenville, Illinois stash house. Lorenzo, who lived in Mexico, was the leader. Salgado was arrested in 2016, indicted under 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 846, and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin. The PSR recommended an aggravating role enhancement under USSG 3B1.1(b), reasoning that Salgado directed and controlled” the others and was the Chicago‐based leader of the conspiracy. Salgado objected, claiming he had “no decision making authority, acted solely at the direction of [his father] … did not arrange the importation ... did not set any of the price or quantity terms” and that the government had not proven otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence. The court applied the enhancement, stating that Salgado’s “role as the supervisor is clear from the materials that are not disputed.” The court calculated the Guidelines range as 210-262 months, discussed the section 3553 factors in detail, and stated that “the sentence ... would be the same even if the guidelines were a little bit different … even if I made a mistake in the calculation with respect to the aggravating role, the guideline sentence is going to not control the sentence here. What’s going to control is the 3553 factors. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the 192-month sentence; “whether or not the enhancement should have applied, the district court’s detailed explanation makes a remand pointless." View "United States v. Salgado" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Liebharts own three houses on a block in Watertown, Wisconsin. Part of the block was previously occupied by a factory, built in 1920 and last owned by SPX. The factory manufactured power transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a carcinogenic chemical banned by the EPA in 1979. Studies revealed that the factory's concrete floor was generally contaminated. In 2014, SPX demolished the building with the assistance of the defendants. The Liebharts sued, alleging that dust and debris containing toxic chemicals migrated onto their properties, contaminating their yards and jeopardizing their health and the health of their tenants. Following discovery and the submission of expert witness reports, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment with costs. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Although the district court adequately evaluated the expert witnesses and did not abuse its discretion in its procedural decisions, the court set the bar unnecessarily high for the plaintiffs to show a violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 6901, and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C. 2601. RCRA requires only that harm “may” be imminent; similarly, TSCA does not impose a heightened standard. The parties should have another opportunity to litigate whether a substantial and imminent endangerment to health exists. View "Liebhart v. SPX Corp." on Justia Law

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Galloway pleaded guilty to possessing ammunition as a felon. Galloway’s guideline range would have been 130-162 months in prison if it were not capped by a 120-month statutory maximum. The government asked the court to give Galloway the full 120 months. Galloway’s attorney told the court he had determined, after reviewing the Sentencing Guidelines and precedent, that “there was no way to make an objection,” and argued generally for a downward departure. Galloway appealed his 120-month sentence, raising an unpreserved argument that the district court used an incorrect guideline range. The Seventh Circuit dismissed his appeal. In his plea agreement, Galloway waived his appellate rights with respect to the “sentence imposed and the manner in which the sentence was determined” except in the event of a deviation by the district court from a recommendation made by one of the parties. The court acknowledged that the language used in this appellate waiver is unusual, but rejected Galloway’s arguments that his lawyer’s sentencing arguments did not constitute a recommendation because they did not include a specific proposal for a certain length of incarceration. View "United States v. Galloway" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiffs purchased land near a former GE manufacturing plant that had operated in Morrison, Illinois for 60 years. The plant leached toxic chemicals that seeped into the groundwater. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency filed suit under state law against GE in 2004 and has been working with the company since then to investigate and develop a plan to address the contamination. In 2013, plaintiffs filed suit under the citizen suit provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. 6901, seeking a mandatory injunction ordering GE to conduct additional investigation into the scope of the contamination and ordering the company to remove the contamination. The district court found the company liable for the contamination on summary judgment but denied injunctive relief because, despite the many opportunities, plaintiffs did not offer evidence establishing a need for injunctive relief beyond what the company had already done in the state action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court had the discretion to award injunctive relief under the RCRA but was not required to order relief after a finding of liability. Plaintiffs did not carry their burden to establish mandatory injunctive relief was necessary under the RCRA. View "Conway v. General Electric Co." on Justia Law