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

by
Johnson, an inmate at Dixon Correctional Center in Illinois, sued medical professionals under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs because none of them referred Johnson for surgery to repair his hernia. In 2011-2016, Dixon's medical professionals evaluated Johnson more than 90 times, including for treatment of his often-uncontrolled diabetes. Johnson complained, intermittently, of hernia pain but the hernia was at times undetectable, and even when detected, it was small and reducible. Johnson claims that the defendants told him that he would not receive surgery unless his hernia became strangulated or incarcerated. They prescribed over-the-counter pain medication and abdominal binders to manage his symptoms.A court-appointed expert, Dr. Toyama opined that the standard of care in treating a “medically fit” individual with an umbilical hernia is surgical repair but when an umbilical hernia is not strangulated or incarcerated, surgery is not urgent and usually scheduled as an elective procedure. Toyama reiterated that Johnson’s medical records showed no evidence that Johnson’s hernia was strangulated or acutely incarcerated and testified that Johson’s medical records established that his hernia never changed significantly, that he continued to be physically active. When asked whether he had any criticisms of the defendants’ treatment, Toyama answered, “No.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in the defendants’ favor. The record failed to support that they acted with deliberate indifference. View "Johnson v. Dominguez" on Justia Law

by
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal government’s primary consumer protection agency for financial matters under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, 12 U.S.C. 5511(a)–(b), lacks “supervisory or enforcement authority with respect to an activity engaged in by an attorney as part of the practice of law under the laws of a State in which the attorney is licensed.”The Bureau sued two companies and four associated lawyers that provided mortgage-assistance relief services to customers across 39 states. The firms had four attorneys at their Chicago headquarters and associated with local attorneys in the states in which they conducted business. The bulk of the firms’ work was performed by 30-40 non-attorneys (client intake specialists), who enrolled customers, gathered and reviewed necessary documents, answered consumer questions, and submitted loan-modification applications. The "specialists" and attorneys worked off scripts. The firms charged each customer a retainer, followed by recurring monthly fees. On average, the firms collected $3,375 per client. Customers paid separately for additional work, such as representation in foreclosure or bankruptcy, An attorney at headquarters reviewed each loan modification file and forwarded it to an attorney in the customer’s home state. The local attorneys were paid $25-40 for each task. Most reviews took five-10 minutes. Local attorneys almost never communicated directly with customers. One firm obtained loan modifications for 1,369 out of 5,265 customers; the other obtained loan modifications for 190 out of 1,116. The companies ceased operations in 2013.The district court partially invalidated sections of the attorney exemption and granted summary judgment against the defendants for charging unlawful advance fees, failing to make required disclosures, implying in their welcome letter to customers that the customer should not communicate with lenders, implying that consumers current on mortgages should stop making payments, and misrepresenting the performance of nonprofit alternative services. The tasks completed by the firms’ attorneys did not amount to the “practice of law.” The court ordered restitution and enjoined certain defendants from providing “debt relief services.” The Seventh Circuit agreed that the firms and lawyers were not engaged in the practice of law; further proceedings are necessary concerning remedies. View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Consumer First Legal Group, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Morrow and others participated in four robberies during two months in 2017. The first three robberies targeted Indiana electronics stores, the fourth an Ohio electronics store. As Morrow and his co-defendants fled from Ohio to Indiana, they were arrested by federal officers, who were tracking their movements. Officers recovered only the electronics from the fourth robbery. Morrow was charged with three counts of Hobbs Act robbery (the Indiana robberies), three counts of use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (related to the Indiana robberies), one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery (Ohio), one count of conspiracy to use a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. 924(c)), and one count of transporting a firearm across state lines. Morrow admitted guilt on each charge except for the Indiana use-of-a-firearm counts, asserting that a fake firearm was used. The jury found Morrow guilty on all counts. The district court imposed a 204-month term of imprisonment and ordered monetary restitution equal to the value of the electronics stolen in all four robberies.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, except with respect to restitution, rejecting the “fake gun” claim and arguments that the government improperly used the Hobbs Act charges as predicates for the section 924(c) charges. Because the government had the electronics from the fourth robbery in its possession, the district court erred in ordering monetary restitution for those stolen goods. View "United States v. Morrow" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Manning pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana and distribution of marijuana. He was sentenced to 210 months’ imprisonment; his prison term was later reduced to 168 months, based on changes to the sentencing guidelines. He is incarcerated in Fort Dix, New Jersey and is scheduled for release in 2025. In July 2020, Manning, pro se, moved for compassionate release based on his prediabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, together with the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court appointed the Federal Public Defender’s Office to represent Manning, stating that although it lacked authority to appoint counsel for defendants seeking relief under the First Step Act, the Federal Public Defender was “willing” to represent defendants who may be eligible for compassionate release as indicated by the district's Administrative Order 265. The federal defender appeared on Manning’s behalf but moved to withdraw. The court then appointed a Criminal Justice Act panel member, who is entitled to compensation up to $2,500.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. Manning’s medical conditions are not extraordinary and compelling cause for a sentence reduction. The factors under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) weighed against his release. The court declined to address whether the district court impermissibly appointed and compensated Manning’s lawyer. View "United States v. Manning" on Justia Law

by
Flowers was tipped off about q supposed stash house by a man claiming to be a disgruntled drug cartel courier. Flowers's brother and others recruited Conley to help rob that stash house. The supposed courier was an undercover ATF agent. There was no stash house or real drugs, just a convincing ruse designed to ensnare Flowers and his crew. The FBI had originally focused on Flowers through an investigation into a Chicago street gang. Flowers’s group, including Conley, met to plan the robbery. Conley agreed to participate and volunteered for a frontline role. Once the participants were in a van to go to the stash house, the undercover agent gave the arrest signal. Conley was convicted of conspiring and attempting to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846; possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A); and being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1).Conley invoked 28 U.S.C. 2255 to vacate his convictions, arguing that they were obtained unlawfully through racially selective law enforcement and outrageous government conduct, in violation of his Fifth Amendment equal protection and due process rights, The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion. Although the district court required “clear and convincing” evidence for Conley’s selective enforcement claim, his evidence cannot meet even the less‐demanding standard of preponderance of the evidence. The Seventh Circuit does not recognize a defense for “outrageous government conduct,” and even if it did, ATF’s conduct in Conley’s case would not satisfy the standard other circuits have applied. View "Conley v. United States" on Justia Law

by
About halfway through his prison term for fraud, Ugbah sought compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1), claiming that his medical conditions (diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure) exposed him to higher risk of COVID-19 in prison. The Seventh CIrcuit affirmed the denial of relief. Although the district court bypassed determining whether Ugbah established “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” there was no need for a remand. The district court could not grant relief. Despite Ugbah’s good disciplinary record and the likelihood that he would be deported to Nigeria if released, he cannot establish “extraordinary and compelling reasons”; he was convicted of online fraud, which reaches around the globe. COVID-19 is no longer a scourge in prisons. The Bureau of Prisons offers vaccinations to all federal prisoners. View "United States v. Ugbah" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Disabled children are entitled to benefits from the Social Security Administration, 42 U.S.C. 1382c(a)(3)(C). While benefits for an adult depend on a work history plus current inability to perform a job, administrative officials ask whether the child’s limitations meet one of the many listed categories of disability or are functionally equivalent to one of them. When determining whether a child’s impairment is functionally equivalent to a listing, the issue is whether it produces a marked limitation in at least two—or an extreme limitation in one—of six “domains of functioning,”McCavic argued that his son, N., is disabled by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intellectual limitations (an IQ near 70), oppositional defiant disorder, and nocturnal enuresis. He claimed that these conditions meet, or are functionally equivalent to certain listings. An ALJ found that N. did not meet any of the listings and has a marked limitation in only one functional category, “acquiring and using information.” A district judge affirmed. The ALJ was entitled to credit the views of a special-education teacher, who knew N well and had a good grasp of gradations among children with intellectual shortcomings. While N. may have met the standards of the old version of the regulations, but not the new one, the change applies “to claims that are pending on or after the effective date.” View "McCavitt v. Kijakazi" on Justia Law

by
Kuberski began his retirement by purchasing a new 2013 Fleetwood Storm, manufactured by RV, for nearly $160,000, from REV’s authorized dealer, Camping World in North Carolina. During the first year, Kuberski reported over 40 (non-trivial) defects to Camping World, which, required by the warranty, serviced the RV seven times over two years. Those efforts were unsuccessful. Kuberski sent a letter to REV with a list of every defect, all unrepaired problems, and the servicing records, requesting that REV buy back the RV or exchange it for a properly working replacement model. REV did not accept either option but offered free repairs at its Decatur, Indiana facility. REV later offered to pay Kuberski’s expenses of transporting the RV to Indiana. Initially, Kuberski accepted the offer He never arrived at REV’s facility. He filed suit under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which creates a private right of action for any “consumer who is damaged by the failure of a supplier, warrantor, or service contractor to comply with any obligation under [the statute], or under a written warranty, implied warranty, or service contract,” 15 U.S.C. 2310(d)(1).The Seventh Circuit affirmed a verdict in favor of REV, rejecting Kuberski’s challenge to jury instructions concerning his “substantial compliance” with the warranty. Kuberski’s acknowledged failure to honor his appointment with REV was not a simple failure of literal compliance. It was enough also to defeat a finding of substantial compliance. View "Kuberski v. REV Recreation Group, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
by
Contending that his asthma and other breathing issues put him at extra risk should he contract COVID-19 while in prison, Broadfield applied for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). For a prisoner who is younger than 70, relief depends on finding “extraordinary and compelling reasons.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. Broadfield has not been convicted of a weapons offense, but the district court cited such an offense in its decision. However, section 3582(c)(1)(A) does not make a judicial finding of non-dangerousness essential to compassionate release. When Broadfield's application was denied, COVID-19 was a grave problem in America’s prisons. The Bureau of Prisons reports that 1,300 prisoners at FCI Seagoville, where Broadfield is confined, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Because risk of COVID-19, which can bear especially hard on people with pre-existing breathing conditions, was Broadfield’s sole reason for seeking compassionate release, a remand would be pointless. A prisoner who remains at elevated risk because he has declined to be vaccinated cannot plausibly characterize that risk as an “extraordinary and compelling” justification for release. The federal judiciary need not accept a prisoner’s self-diagnosed skepticism about the vaccines as an adequate explanation for remaining unvaccinated, when the responsible agencies all deem vaccination safe and effective. View "United States v. Broadfield" on Justia Law

by
A union filed charges of unfair labor practices against Mondelez, a manufacturer of baked goods. An administrative law judge found that the company had unlawfully discharged union officials, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (3); made unilateral changes to various conditions of employment, related to short-term disability leave, union access to new hires, and employee shift schedules, section 158(a)(1), (5); and failed to timely and completely provide relevant information the union requested, section 158(a)(1), (5). The Board agreed. The Seventh Circuit granted the Board’s application for enforcement. The Board reasonably concluded that Mondelez’s justification for discharging the officials was pretextual. Substantial evidence supported the findings concerning unilateral changes to conditions of employment. It was reasonable for the Board to conclude that Mondelez failed to provide a complete record of the new hires as requested. View "Mondelez Global LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law