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

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The federal government may deny admission or adjustment of status to a noncitizen “likely at any time to become a public charge, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4)(A). For decades, “public charge” was understood to refer to noncitizens “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either (i) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (ii) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security expanded the meaning of “public charge” to disqualify a broader set of noncitizens from benefits. The Rule immediately generated extensive litigation.In 2020, the district court vacated the 2019 Rule under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701. In 2021, the federal government dismissed appeals defending the 2019 Rule in courts around the country. Several states subsequently sought to intervene in the proceedings, hoping to defend the 2019 Rule; they also moved for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b). The district court denied the motions, finding each untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion with respect to timeliness. The court declined to address other issues. View "Cook County, Illinois v. State of Texas" on Justia Law

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Greenpoint Tactical Income Fund and its affiliates and managers were the subjects of an FBI investigation into suspected fraud, particularly with respect to Greenpoint’s asset valuation practices. The investigation led to the issuance of a search warrant for plaintiffs’ properties and the seizure of some assets. Plaintiffs filed suit against Agent Pettigrew and Assistant United States Attorney Halverson, alleging violations of their Fourth Amendment rights by submitting a false and misleading affidavit in support of the search warrant. They sought damages. The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that plaintiffs were seeking to extend “Bivens” to a “new context” and that “special factors” counseled hesitation in doing so.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal on different grounds. Even assuming that Bivens can reach the Fourth Amendment violations alleged here, Halverson is entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity and Agent Pettigrew is entitled to qualified immunity. There is no allegation that Halverson was interviewing witnesses himself, was actively involved in the investigation as it was unfolding, or personally vouched for the truth of the allegations in Pettigrew’s affidavit. A reasonable agent in Pettigrew’s position could believe the allegations amounted to probable cause. View "Greenpoint Tactical Income Fund LLC v. Pettigrew" on Justia Law

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Brown, a prisoner in the Illinois River Correctional Center, experienced abdominal pain. A few days later, the prison’s nurse practitioner prescribed some pain medicine. Brown returned to his cell, but the pain became more severe. Brown was taken to the prison’s ’infirmary, where the prison’s nurses and doctor treated him over three-and-a-half days. Despite the treatment, the symptoms worsened, and Brown was transported to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with appendicitis, which required surgery to remove his appendix. Brown sued, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The prison medical staff did not act with deliberate indifference toward Brown’s serious medical condition. Brown may have received subpar care in the prison’s infirmary but medical malpractice is not a constitutional violation. › Brown has presented no direct or circumstantial evidence that the physician “actually knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of harm.” View "Brown v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Swank, a registered sex offender, logged onto a dating application under the username “lkng4younger.” After eight days of sexually explicit online chatting, the other user (an undercover FBI agent) stated he was 15. Swank drove from Iowa to meet with the user in Illinois. FBI agents arrested Swank, who admitted to exchanging sexually explicit images and messages with the user and crossing state lines with the intent of taking a 15-year-old male to Iowa for sex. The district court calculated a Guidelines range of 210-262 months’ imprisonment and found that a 210-month sentence was sufficient but not greater than necessary because of Swank’s risk to recidivate and the danger he presented. The judge stated: I do think that general deterrence is a factor … it is a little arbitrary, but it is the way that our system works is it’s tethered to the reality of the sentences and the ranges and everything like that. … a variance … could minimize the general deterrent impact.”The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Swank’s argument that the district court procedurally erred when it suggested the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)(2)(B) factor of adequate deterrence was “tethered” to the Guidelines. When read as a whole, the transcript indicates that the district court followed the proper procedure and did not err in determining the appropriate sentence. View "United States v. Swank" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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St. Vincent Hospital adopted a COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Employees had until November 12, 2021 to get vaccinated unless they received a medical or religious exemption. In reviewing exemption requests, St. Vincent considered the employee’s position and amount of contact with others, the current health and safety risk posed by COVID, and the cost and effectiveness of other safety protocols. Dr. Halczenko treated gravely ill children, including those suffering from or at risk of organ failure.St. Vincent denied Halczenko’s request for religious accommodation on the ground that “providing an exemption to a Pediatric Intensivist working with acutely ill pediatric patients poses more than a de minim[i]s burden to the hospital because the vaccine provides an additional level of protection in mitigating the risk associated with COVID.” Halczenko and four other St. Vincent employees filed an EEOC complaint. The others—a nurse practitioner and three nurses, including two in the pediatric ICU—were granted religious accommodations. St. Vincent terminated Halczenko’s employment. Halczenko attributes his lack of success in finding new work to his non-compete agreement with St. Vincent, his preference not to move his family, and the limited demand for an unvaccinated physician in his specialty. In a purported class action, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of preliminary relief, concluding that Halczenko had shown neither irreparable harm nor an inadequate remedy at law. View "Halczenko v. Ascension Health, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a nationwide class action on behalf of all customers of GLV, which operates in several states as Sports Performance Volleyball Club, the district court certified a class limited to customers of GLV’s Illinois locations. Later, the judge concluded that Mullen, who asserts that GLV committed fraud by failing to disclose allegations of sexual abuse by a coach, was an unsuitable class representative because Mullen had not been injured and invited her to find a substitute. She did not. The class was never decertified.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the suit on summary judgment after noting that abstention might have been appropriate. All of the litigants are citizens of Illinois, the claim rests on state law, and the remaining stakes are modest. The sole asserted basis of federal jurisdiction is the Class Action Fairness Act, which applies to class actions with more than 100 class members, stakes exceeding $5 million, and minimal diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2). Illinois law requires the plaintiff to show that she was “in some manner, deceived” by misrepresentation or material omission. Mullen was aware of the allegations against the coach. The court noted that the outcome does not bind any other person whose children attended the Club. View "Mullen v. GLV, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hernandez pled guilty to a RICO conspiracy charge, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d) stemming from his more than three decades of involvement with a violent gang, the Almighty Latin Kings Nation. Like many defendants during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hernandez underwent sentencing by video. He received 175 months’ imprisonment, slightly more than the 138-165 months recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not commit a nonwaivable error when it conducted Hernandez's sentencing by video without first making a statutorily-required finding that Hernandez’s sentencing could not be delayed without serious harm to the interests of justice under the CARES Act, Pub. L. 116-136, 15002(b)(2) (2020). The court noted that, given the judge's apparent sympathy for Hernandez, it is unlikely that he could have obtained a more favorable result by making the same sentencing arguments in person rather than remotely. The evidence supported the court's finding that Hernandez should be held accountable for conspiracy to commit murder. View "United States v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Eaden defrauded his employer, SIT, of more than $200,000 by falsely inflating the profits at his store (to obtain unearned performance‐based bonuses) by billing SIT’s largest customer (Gibson) for products it did not purchase and by submitting false claims to a rewards program sponsored by a tire manufacturer. After receiving a tip, police investigated, and SIT hired a forensic accounting firm, which concluded that Eaden received more than $47,000 in unearned bonuses. At sentencing, the district court imposed 46 months’ imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and ordered restitution of $244,673.00, and the forfeiture of Eaden’s bonuses from 2014-2016, $88,106.78.The Seventh Circuit affirmed his convictions, rejecting arguments that the court deprived him of a fair trial by informing prospective jurors that a grand jury had issued Eaden’s indictment based on probable cause, meaning “it’s probably true that [Eaden] had some connection with criminal activity” and wrongly admitted a lay witness’s opinion testimony regarding a subset of his fraud charges. The witness used the word "fraudulent" in discussing Eaden's submissions to the rewards program. Based on miscalculation, the court reduced Eaden’s restitution and forfeiture obligations by $189,709 and $40,817.81, respectively. View "United States v. Eaden" on Justia Law

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After multiple sales of methamphetamine and of a weapon to a confidential informant, Garcia was charged with three counts of distributing 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1); two counts of distributing five grams or more of methamphetamine; and being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and 924(e). Garcia argued entrapment. He was convicted on all counts. The PSR set Garcia’s offense level at 35, with a resulting Guidelines range of 292-365 months, and noted that Garcia was subject to a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence on the firearm count based on three previous convictions for violent felonies.The Seventh Circuit vacated Garcia's 210-month sentence but affirmed his convictions. There was ample evidence that Garcia was not induced but was otherwise predisposed to engage in the illegal transactions. The court rejected an argument that the district court committed plain error in subjecting him to a mandatory minimum sentence because the PSR did not identify the statute attendant to Garcia’s conviction for aggravated battery with a firearm. The PSR, supported by documentation, identifies Garcia’s crime of conviction as aggravated battery with a firearm under Illinois law, which is a crime of violence.The district court committed plain error in using his 1993 aggravated battery with a firearm conviction when calculating his offense level; the district court should not have increased the offense level based on prior convictions for which no criminal history points were awarded. View "United States v Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Nitzkin was executive director of an Illinois charity that raised about $1.1 million a year. He took home more than $300,000 annually—about half as salary and the rest embezzled. Nitzkin pleaded guilty to wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and was sentenced to 42 months’ imprisonment, a fine, restitution, and supervised release. He challenged the addition of two sentencing levels under U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(9)(A), for offenses involving “a misrepresentation that the defendant was acting on behalf of a charitable, educational, religious, or political organization.” Nitzkin’s argued that he did not “misrepresent” his status as a person “acting on behalf of” the charity and that 2B1.1(b)(9)(A) does not deal with the diversion of funds raised by a legitimate officer of a charity. The enhancement increased his sentence by 8-10 months.The Seventh Circuit vacated the sentence. Application Note 8(E)(i) states: “If the conduct that forms the basis for an enhancement under subsection (b)(9)(A) is the only conduct that forms the basis for an adjustment under 3B1.3 (Abuse of Position of Trust or Use of Special Skill–an enhancement also applied to Nitzkin), do not apply that adjustment under 3B1.3.” The court found no misconstruction of 2B1.1(b)(9)(A), but remanded for a determination of whether the two enhancements reflect different conduct. Even if only one applies, the judge may conclude that a 42-month sentence retains the support of the criteria in 18 U.S.C. 3553. View "United States v. Nitzkin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law