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

by
In 2008, Arnold was convicted of repeated sexual assault of his son, M.A., the principal witness at trial. As a persistent repeater, Arnold was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2011, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and the denial of Arnold’s first post‐conviction petition. M.A. then signed a notarized affidavit, recanting his trial testimony. Nearly two years later, Arnold filed a pro se petition seeking a new trial. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the petition, reasoning that the affidavit was not newly-discovered evidence but was cumulative of evidence presented at trial. The Wisconsin Supreme Court again denied review.In December 2015, Arnold filed a federal habeas petition, claiming actual innocence. The district court dismissed the petition as untimely. Under 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A), a petitioner must seek habeas relief within one year of the date that his conviction became final. On remand, the district court heard testimony from M.A., a child psychologist, and M.A.’s former counselor. The Seventh Circuit then affirmed the dismissal of the petition. Arnold failed to meet the rigorous standard for overcoming the time bar. The court properly applied that probabilistic standard on remand; it was not the court’s charge on remand to independently determine whether it found M.A.’s recantation credible or reliable. The court employed the proper standard in viewing the new evidence through the eyes of a reasonable juror. View "Arnold v. Richardson" on Justia Law

by
Providers filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Medicaid Act, alleging that the Department violated constitutional and statutory law in retroactively recalculating their Medicaid reimbursement rates for the three-month period of January through March 2016.The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the Providers' procedural due process claim, concluding that, at this early stage in the litigation, the allegations are sufficient to allege a violation of procedural due process. First, the court explained that the Providers retain a legitimate entitlement to a rate determined according to that formula, and any action to alter the rate must be conducted with due process. In this case, according to the amended complaint, the auditors failed to provide any notice of the alleged deficiencies prior to the final decision, and the Providers had no opportunity to submit additional documentation or other evidence following that decision. The court stated that the burden on the Department in providing such notice is no impediment, given that the procedures are already in the Code. The court explained that the Department need only follow those procedures rather than routinely bypass them. Therefore, in the absence of that basic and fundamental protection against unfair or mistaken findings, the court concluded that the Providers have sufficiently alleged a violation of due process. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Rock River Health Care, LLC v. Eagleson" on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action brought by plaintiff, an inmate at the Dixon Correctional Center, alleging that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by refusing to grant him an exemption to wearing a restrictive security device, a black box, when he left the facility for medical appointments.In regard to claims against Dr. Mesrobian, the court concluded that no reasonable jury could find that Dr. Mesrobian acted with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk to plaintiff's health where the doctor concluded that an exemption was not necessary because the amount of force used was minimal and the security concerns significant. In regard to claims against Wexford Health, the court concluded that Wexford Health did not have a policy or practice of per se denials of black box exemptions or of failing to perform assessments to determine whether an exemption was warranted. In regard to claims against Assistant Warden Steele, the court concluded that prison administrators were not indifferent by depending on medical personnel to make medical assessments and that the IDOC, through Steele in his official capacity, did not fail to implement policies in a way that added up to deliberate indifference. Furthermore, the court did not find sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the IDOC had an unconstitutional custom or practice of not giving black box exemptions to inmates with conditions like that of plaintiff. View "Stewart v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Vizcarra-Millan, who lived in Arizona, provided the drugs to Grundy. A network of couriers, including Moseby, brought the drugs to Indianapolis, where Grundy distributed them himself or via a network of wholesalers, including Carroll, who sold to retail dealers, including Atwater and Beasley, and Neville. Grundy and his crew brought at least 280 pounds of highly pure methamphetamine, as well as other drugs, to Indianapolis. In 2017, federal law enforcement obtained wiretaps for the cell phones of crew members and coordinated controlled drug buys from Grundy’s dealers. Most of Grundy’s associates pled guilty. Grundy and four others were convicted.Consolidating the appeals, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the convictions of Grundy, Vizcarra-Millan, Moseby, Atwater, and Neville. The court affirmed the conviction of Beasley on one count but reversed his convictions on two others; the evidence necessarily left a reasonable doubt as to whether he committed those crimes. The court rejected Grundy’s argument that the district court violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by improperly obstructing him from representing himself; Vizcarra-Millan’s argument that the district court should have disqualified his chosen counsel due to a conflict of interest; and multiple challenges the denials of untimely motions to suppress evidence. View "United States v. Vizcarra-Millan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Julius was convicted of arson for setting fire to a building where his ex-girlfriend, Noack, was living, twice in the same night. Julius was seen hanging around the building and threw rocks at the apartment window. On the night of the fires, Julius texted Noack repeatedly, asking if she was “coming outside.” He called her five times in a row. After midnight, a building resident woke up to the smell of smoke and found burning coals inside the building’s front door. Shortly after the second fire, an officer found Julius hiding under a car, patted Julius down, and found a lighter in his pocket. Julius was “clearly intoxicated.” Testing revealed gasoline on Julius’s shoes and socks.The government called a state police computer forensic examiner and an ATF agent to testify about extracting text messages from Julius’s phone. . The government did not seek to qualify these witnesses as experts. The ATF agent testified that she could not reach any conclusions as to the phone’s location. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Neither the district court’s failure to qualify the forensic examiner and ATF agent as expert witnesses before allowing them to testify nor the denial of an opportunity to cross-examine the ATF agent about the location data affected the verdict. View "United States v. Julius" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Citing a budget deficit, Chicago’s Board of Education laid off 1,077 teachers and 393 paraprofessional educators in 2011. The Chicago Teachers Union and a class of teachers (CTU) sued, alleging that the layoffs discriminated against African-American teachers and paraprofessionals in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. 2000e.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Board. While CTU made a prima facie case of disparate impact with evidence that African-Americans comprised approximately 30% of Union members at the time of the layoffs but made up just over 40% of Union members receiving layoff notices, the Board’s decision to tie layoffs to declining enrollment in schools was legitimate, job-related, and consistent with business necessity. Beyond noting the existence of open positions for which laid-off employees were qualified, CTU did not meet its burden of establishing that its proposed alternative of transferring employees was “available, equally valid and less discriminatory.” The Illinois statute’s designation of hiring discretion to principals neither promotes discrimination nor bears any relationship to the Board’s decision to tie layoffs to declining enrollment and the transfer alternative proposed by CTU is not consistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. CTU did not put forth any evidence of intentional discrimination by the Board. View "Chicago Teachers Union v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

by
Based on his assault on his wife and her parents, Minnick was charged with aggravated battery, attempted first‐degree murder, and several counts of first‐degree reckless endangerment and attempted burglary, while using a dangerous weapon. Minnick agreed to plead no contest, except for attempted murder, which was dismissed and read‐in, and leave sentencing to the court, exposing him to 73 years of confinement. The court sentenced Minnick to 27 years.Wisconsin courts rejected his argument that his trial attorney improperly guaranteed and unreasonably estimated that he would receive a much shorter sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court denied review. Wisconsin courts then rejected his post-conviction argument that counsel was constitutionally ineffective because she failed to advise him that he could withdraw his no-contest pleas before sentencing if he provided a “fair and just reason” and that, when counsel learned that the PSR recommended a sentencing range exceeding what she had advised, she should have moved to withdraw his pleas.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of habeas relief. Although Minnick’s claims could have been analyzed differently—including whether the state court’s decision on counsel’s sentencing advice warranted deference under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals did not unreasonably apply the Strickland deficient‐performance prong in concluding that a plea withdrawal claim was not clearly stronger than the argument that Minnick’s postconviction counsel advanced. View "Minnick v. Winkleski" on Justia Law

by
Joliet condemned a housing complex managed by New West and paid $15 million. HUD rent subsidies for low-income tenants provided almost all of the money for operating the development. A $2.7 million fund had been established by New West and HUD, to cover necessary maintenance and repairs in the event of a default by New West. HUD refused to release that account to New West, contending that it now holds the account to cover Joliet’s obligations.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of New West’s suit to recover the account. New West cannot establish conversion of the fund without first establishing ownership. HUD’s lien on the fund does not establish ownership of the fund and New West has not established its ownership by showing that it treated deposits into the fund as taxable income. View "New West, L.P. v. Fudge" on Justia Law

by
Kerry began requiring workers to use fingerprints to clock in and out. Plaintiffs, former employees, say that Kerry did not obtain their consent before doing so in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185 because its resolution depends on the interpretation of collective-bargaining agreements between Kerry and the plaintiffs' union. Federal law prevents states from interfering in relations between unions and private employers. Whether a topic of bargaining is mandatory or permissive, the union is the workers’ agent. If labor and management want to bargain collectively about particular working conditions, they are free to do so. Workers cannot insist that management bypass the union and deal with them directly about these subjects. The use of biometric data is a topic for bargaining between unions and management. States cannot bypass the mechanisms of federal law and authorize direct negotiation or litigation between workers and management. View "Fernandez v. Kerry, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Stergiadis, Dimas, and Theo formed 1600 South LLC, executed an operating agreement, purchased land on which to build a fruit market, and began construction. The 2008 recession stopped construction and eventually led to the LLC’s 2009 dissolution. The partners disagreed about whether they impliedly agreed to equalize their capital contributions. The operating agreement provided that the three each held a one-third membership interest in the LLC; each member agreed to make an initial capital contribution on the date of execution but the amount was left blank. In 2008 Stergiadis sued Dimas in state court seeking to equalize the capital contributions. Dimas filed for bankruptcy, triggering the automatic stay. Dimas ultimately filed seven such petitions and received a discharge in 2016. The U.S. Trustee moved to reopen the bankruptcy to recover the value of an undisclosed property. The bankruptcy court agreed. Stergiadis filed a proof of claim in Dimas’s reopened bankruptcy seeking the same amount he was seeking in state court. The partners disputed the amounts of their respective contributions.The bankruptcy court allowed Stergiadis’s claim, awarding $618,974, finding that the members had an implied equalization agreement. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the LLC’s operating agreement precluded an implied equalization contract. The bankruptcy court properly relied on extrinsic evidence in finding such a contract. View "Dimas v. Stergiadis" on Justia Law