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Ashby’s son was a member of his elementary school choir. In 2014 and 2015, the choir performed a Christmas concert at a local museum in a historic building. The building was not then accessible to persons with disabilities. Ashby, who uses a wheelchair, was unable to attend the concerts. She sued the School Corporation, alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12132, and the Rehabilitation Act. The district court concluded that the Christmas concert was not a “service, program, or activity of” the Warrick Schools, nor was the concert an activity “provided or made available” by the School Corporation and granted summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, accepting the Department of Justice’s suggestion that when a public entity offers a program in conjunction with a private entity, the question of whether a service, program, or activity is one “of” a public entity is fact-based and that there is a “spectrum” of possible relationships ranging from a “true joint endeavor” to participation in a wholly private event. The Department’s interpretation of its regulations is a reasonable one that offers a loose but practical framework that aids in decision-making. Upon close examination of the record, it is clear that the event in question was not a service, program, or activity provided or made available by the School Corporation. View "Ashby v. Warrick County School Corp" on Justia Law

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Madison, Wisconsin law enforcement investigated a ring distributing methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also called MDMA or Ecstasy, and other controlled substances. An undercover officer bought Ecstasy from Pennington twice in late 2015 and twice again in September 2016; in October 2016, the officer tried to purchase crack cocaine from Pennington, but she lacked direct access to that drug. Pennington pleaded guilty to distributing a Schedule I controlled substance, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, within the Sentencing Guidelines range of 10-16 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court’s comparison of Pennington to her co-defendant was not a procedural error. The comparison was reasonable and did not exclude consideration of other factors that 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) requires courts to consider. The court did not violate Pennington’s due process rights by relying on inaccurate information. Although the judge made a factual error in explaining the sentence orally, he corrected the error in the written explanation, indicating that the error did not affect the ultimate sentence. View "United States v. Pennington" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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DEA task force members lawfully found drugs in a traffic stop and seized several garage openers and keys they found in the car. An agent took the garage openers and drove around downtown Chicago pushing their buttons to look for a suspected stash house. He found the right building when the door of a shared garage opened. The agent then used a seized key fob and mailbox key to enter the building’s locked lobby and pinpoint the target condominium. Another agent sought and obtained the arrestee’s consent to search the target condo. The search turned up extensive evidence of drug trafficking. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a motion to suppress the drug trafficking evidence. While the use of the garage door opener was a search and was "close to the edge," it did not violate the Fourth Amendment, which does not forbid this technique to identify the building or door associated with the opener, at least where the search discloses no further information. Use of the key fob and mailbox key in the lobby was not unlawful because the defendants had no right to exclude people from the lobby area. At all other stages of the investigation, the agents also complied with the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Correa" on Justia Law

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Downey attempted to rob the Waukegan Associated Bank by approaching a teller, pointing a cap gun at her, and demanding money. When the teller and a co-employee ducked behind the counter, he left the bank. The next day, he entered TCF Bank in Waukegan holding a cap gun. After observing the number of people in the bank and that a partition separated the customer area from the teller counter, he left the bank. TCF Bank contacted the police and he was arrested a short distance away following a brief foot chase. He subsequently pled guilty to attempted bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 2113(a) and entry of a bank with intent to commit larceny. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence of 57 months’ imprisonment plus three years of supervised release, with conditions. A discretionary condition did not authorize any drug tests that would exceed the maximum number of 104 tests provided in the mandatory condition. Downey did not dispute the reasonableness of 104 tests. A discretionary condition that allowed the probation officer to visit Downey at any location specified by the probation officer contains a limitation that the location and time be “reasonable,” which adequately resolves any concern with the probation officer’s discretion. View "United States v. Downey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Chicago Officer Jolliff’s confidential informant, “Doe,” reported buying heroin from “Fred.” Jolliff’s warrant affidavit stated that Doe had bought heroin from Fred for a couple of months; Fred sold heroin from a particular home's basement; and Doe had bought heroin from Fred that day and saw Fred with over 100 baggies of heroin. Jolliff showed Doe a photo of the Edwards home, which Doe confirmed was the location. Jolliff drove Doe to the location, where Doe confirmed that identification. Jolliff used a database to obtain a photograph of Freddy Sutton, who Doe identified as “Fred.” Jolliff’s supervisor and an assistant state’s attorney approved the warrant application. Aware of Doe’s criminal history, the judge questioned Doe under oath and issued the warrant. Officers conducted the search four days later. Edwards and his daughter were outside and prevented from entering their home during the search, which took about two hours and uncovered no illegal drugs. Nor did the police find Sutton. The Edwardses had minor property damage. They filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a Monell claim against the city because the Edwardses did not plausibly allege the existence of any policy or practice permitting searches without probable cause and summary judgment in favor of the officers, concluding that the warrant was supported by probable cause. The officers were also entitled to qualified immunity based on their reasonable reliance on the warrant. View "Edwards v. Jolliff-Blake" on Justia Law

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Gallo was a dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic. Less than a year into her employment, she resigned and entered into a separation agreement to prevent Mayo from saying anything negative about her to prospective employers. Years later, her former supervisor rated her performance as “fair” on two criteria in a credentialing form sent to Mayo after Gallo had been offered a contract to work in New York. That employment offer was rescinded. Gallo sued Mayo for breach of the separation agreement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Mayo. The separation agreement does not apply to every potential employer but limits itself to a potential employer seeking a reference. Even if the separation agreement did apply to the request, Gallo cannot prove causation. The decision to not hire Gallo was [N]ot based, in any way, on any credentialing decision by any other party; rather, the decision was based upon the combination of Dr. Gallo’s continued efforts to re-negotiate her employment contract, her demand to make changes to the contract that were unacceptable … and the ability to fulfill [the employer’s] staffing needs with a dermatologist who was already providing dermatological services [for the employer]. View "Gallo v. Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Taylor and Thomas, abandoned by their fathers and raised in poverty by abusive mothers in Hammond, Indiana, sold drugs until 2000, when they admitted to friends that they had committed a robbery and that Taylor had “hit a lick.” The two had robbed a gun shop, killing the owner, a 73-year-old, near-deaf WWII veteran. The owner was shot twice, once in the neck and once in the face. Taylor and Thomas took firearms, which they later sold on the streets. They were convicted of Hobbs Act conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 1951; Hobbs Act robbery; murder during a robbery, 18 U.S.C. 924(c), (j); and felony possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2) and were sentenced to life in prison. The Seventh Circuit twice ordered evidentiary hearings and supplemental proceedings, then ordered a new trial, which again resulted in life sentences. The district judge resentenced the men, again to life imprisonment, in 2017. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the district judge fully considered their mitigation arguments, including that both men have below-average IQs. The sentences were consistent with the Guidelines and not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Allstate investigated suspicious trading on its equity desk and unearthed email evidence that portfolio managers might be timing trades to inflate their bonuses at the expense of portfolios, including pension funds to which Allstate owed fiduciary duties. Allstate retained attorneys, who hired consultants to calculate potential losses. Because actual losses could not be established, the consultants used an algorithm to estimate a potential adverse impact of $91 million. Allstate poured $91 million into the portfolios. Allstate determined that four portfolio managers had violated company policy and fired them. Allstate's 2009 Form 10-K explained these events and an internal memo described the same information. Neither document mentioned the fired portfolio managers. The former employees sued, alleging defamation based on those documents and alleged that Allstate violated 15 U.S.C. 1681a(y)(2), the Fair Credit Reporting Act, by failing to give them a summary of the attorneys' findings after they were fired. A jury awarded more than $27 million in damages. The judge added punitive damages and attorney’s fees under the Act. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The 10-K and internal memo were not defamatory per se and are actionable (if at all) only on a theory of defamation per quod, which requires proof of special damages causally connected to the publication. The plaintiffs testified that they could not find comparable work after being fired, but presented no evidence that any prospective employer declined to hire them as a consequence of Allstate’s statements in the documents. The four lacked standing for the FCRA claims. View "Rivera v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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When Beaton’s laptop malfunctioned, he discovered SpeedyPC, which offered a diagnosis and a cure. Beaton took advantage of Speedy’s free trial, which warned that his device was in bad shape and encouraged him to purchase its software, The software failed to improve his laptop’s performance. Beaton filed a consumer class action, raising contract and tort theories. The district court certified a nationwide class and an Illinois subclass of software purchasers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Speedy’s argument that the class definitions and legal theories covered by the certification orders impermissibly differ from those outlined in the complaint by the narrowing of the class from everyone in the U.S. who had purchased SpeedyPC Pro, to individual persons (not entities) who downloaded the free trial and purchased the licensed software over a three‐year period. Speedy did not suffer “unfair surprise,” given that the “legal basis for liability is based on the same allegations” about the sale of worthless software. By not raising the argument before the district court, Speedy forfeited its assertion that Beaton is judicially estopped from seeking relief under the law of British Columbia, having initially argued for Illinois law. Class certification satisfied Rule 23(a); common questions of fact and law predominate and the amount of damages to which each plaintiff would be entitled is so small that no one would otherwise bring suit. Consumer class actions are a crucial deterrent against the proliferation of bogus products. View "Beaton v. SpeedyPC Software" on Justia Law

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Duncan fell behind on her car payments, ARS repossessed the vehicle on behalf of the lender, Wells Fargo. Duncan had left some personal items in the car, and when she sought to retrieve them, ARS allegedly demanded $100. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of her suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692f. The $100 charge was not a demand for loan repayment by Duncan, but rather an administrative property-retrieval fee that Wells Fargo had agreed to pay, Duncan was not able to back her allegation that ARS demanded the $100 fee of her with anything beyond her own testimony. ARS backed its contrary testimony with the Receipt for Redeeming Personal Property, which expressly established that Wells Fargo—not Duncan—would make the $100 payment. The same documentary evidence shows that the $100 handling fee was just an administrative expense, not a masked demand for a principal payment to Wells Fargo. View "Duncan v. Asset Recovery Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law