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

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Jimenez-Aguilar, a 14-year-old citizen of Honduras, entered the U.S. without inspection. In 2014, he was arrested for domestic assault. Jimenez-Aguilar sought cancellation of removal, arguing that his removal would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to his spouse and children, all U.S. citizens, 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(1)(D). He obtained modifications of criminal convictions that made such relief unavailable. An IJ nonetheless denied his request, finding that Jimenez-Aguilar had not shown “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship.” The BIA rejected Jimenez-Aguilar’s contentions that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by discouraging him from seeking asylum and that the IJ should have notified him that asylum or withholding were possible. A regulation requires an IJ to provide such notice when “an alien expresses fear of persecution or harm." Jimenez-Aguilar alerted the IJ that he fears vicious criminal gangs and stated two of his cousins and an uncle had been killed by gangs; his mother had obtained asylum because of gang violence. The BIA found that Jimenez-Aguilar “had a reasonable opportunity to apply for asylum” without the need for a warning.The Seventh Circuit remanded. The regulation does not ask whether an alien had a “reasonable opportunity” to seek asylum without advice from the IJ. Jimenez-Aguilar needed only to express fear of persecution or harm of the type that could render him eligible for asylum or withholding of removal; he did not need to express his fear in a way that would make his eligibility for such relief “apparent.” View "Jimenez-Aguilar v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Most people eligible for Medicaid benefits are “categorically needy” because their income falls below a threshold of eligibility. People with higher income but steep medical expenses are “medically needy” once they spend enough of their own assets to qualify, 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(10). Plaintiffs contend that medical expenses they incurred before being classified as “medically needy” should be treated as money spent on medical care, whether or not those bills have been paid, which would increase Illinois's payments for their ongoing care.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their suit. Medicaid is a cooperative program through which the federal government reimburses certain expenses of states that abide by the program’s rules. Medicaid does not establish anyone’s entitlement to receive particular payments. The federal-state agreement is not enforceable by potential beneficiaries. Plaintiffs bypassed their administrative remedies and do not have a judicial remedy under 1396a(r)(1)(A). Section 1396a(a)(8) provides that a state’s plan must provide that all individuals wishing to apply for medical assistance under Medicaid shall have the opportunity to do so and that assistance shall be furnished with reasonable promptness to all eligible individuals; some courts have held that this requirement can be enforced in private suits. If such a claim were available, it would fail. Plaintiffs are receiving benefits. The court also rejected claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12131–34, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. Plaintiffs receive more governmental aid than nondisabled persons. View "Nasello v. Eagleson" on Justia Law

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Indiana voters in 13 categories can vote by mail. One category encompasses voters aged 65 and older; others encompass disabled or homebound voters, voters who lack transportation, and voters who expect to be absent from the county on election day. For the June 2020 primary election, the Indiana Election Commission responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by extending absentee-voting privileges to all registered, qualified voters. The order was not renewed for the November general election. Indiana voters may vote during 28 days before the election; the state is implementing safety guidelines and procuring protective equipment. Plaintiffs argued that Indiana’s extension of absentee ballots to elderly voters violated the Twenty-Sixth Amendment by abridging younger voters' rights and that requiring some voters to cast in-person ballots during the pandemic infringes on their fundamental right to vote.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction requiring Indiana to permit unlimited absentee voting. The fundamental right to vote does not extend to a right to cast an absentee ballot. The pandemic, not Indiana’s laws, caused the difficulties that might accompany in-person voting. The Constitution explicitly authorizes states to prescribe the manner of holding federal elections; balancing the interests of discouraging fraud and mitigating election-related issues with encouraging voter turnout is a judgment reserved to the legislature. Federal courts must exercise caution and restraint before upending state regulations on the eve of an election. . Voting is already underway in Indiana. View "Indiana Vote by Mail, Inc. v. Okeson" on Justia Law

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Bourgeois was convicted of murder on federal property, 18 U.S.C. 7 and 1111, and sentenced to death after he brutally abused and murdered his two-year-old daughter in 2002. Bourgeois collaterally attacked his death sentence on the ground that he is intellectually disabled, citing the Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA), 18 U.S.C. 3596(c), and the Supreme Court’s “Atkins” decision (2002). He fully litigated that claim under 28 U.S.C. 2255, then sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. To invoke that statute, Bourgeois had to show that his case fit within the “savings clause,” 28 U.S.C. 2255(e). In the district court, Bourgeois accompanied his section 2241 petition with a motion to stay his execution—which the district court granted. The court found that the government had waived its argument that Bourgeois could not channel his FDPA claim through the savings clause.The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that Bourgeois does not meet the stringent savings-clause eligibility requirements and that his 2241 petition is procedurally barred. The district court’s factual determination that the government waived its argument was clearly erroneous and an abuse of discretion. Even if the government had forfeited its FDPA argument, that forfeiture would not prevent consideration of the savings-clause issue. .The savings clause is not simply another avenue for appeal. Bourgeois had the chance to appeal the court’s denial of his intellectual-disability claim; there was nothing “structurally inadequate or ineffective about section 2255 as a vehicle.” View "Bourgeois v. Watson" on Justia Law

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Beeler, a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S., worked in Canada for 19 years and contributed to the Canada Pension Plan. In 1989 Beeler moved to the U.S. Until she retired in 2013, she worked and paid Social Security taxes. Beeler’s Canadian earnings were not subject to Social Security taxes; her U.S. earnings were not subject to Canada Plan taxes. Beeler has received Canada Pension Plan benefits since 2013. In 2013, Beeler was awarded reduced Social Security retirement benefits because she was entitled to Canada Pension Plan benefits based on work not covered by Social Security taxation.Rejecting claims that the reductions did not apply to Beeler and similarly-situated plaintiffs, the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The windfall elimination provision, 42 U.S.C. 415(a)(7)(A)(ii), states that an individual who becomes eligible for a monthly payment “which is based in whole or in part upon his or her earnings for service which did not constitute ‘employment’ as defined in [42 U.S.C. 410]” shall have their benefits recomputed. The provision excludes in part “payment by a social security system of a foreign country based on an agreement between the United States and such foreign country" under 42 U.S.C. 433. The plaintiffs’ work in Canada is not considered “employment” under section 410, so section 415 reduces their Social Security benefits. The agency’s interpretations of the provision and its implementing regulation and its application of the provision to reduce their benefits were permissible. View "Lorraine Beeler v. Andrew M. Saul" on Justia Law

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The Network filed suit under the Clean Water Act against Dynegy, the owner of an Illinois power station, claiming that Dynegy’s station was releasing contaminants into groundwater. The district court dismissed the suit concluding that the Act does not regulate groundwater. An appeal focused on whether and how the Act applies to the alleged groundwater contamination after the Supreme Court’s 2020 “County of Maui” decision. Three organizations sought permission to file amicus briefs in support of Dynegy’s position. The Network argued that each brief only parrots Dynegy’s arguments, wasting the court’s time. The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure state that a prospective amicus must explain why its brief is desirable and why the matters asserted are relevant. The Seventh Circuit Practitioner’s Handbook adds that the court looks at whether the submission will assist the judges by presenting ideas, arguments, theories, insights, facts, or data that are not found in the parties' briefs.The Seventh Circuit granted the motion, stating that amicus briefs should not serve only to count which interest groups are promoting which outcome. In this case: the Illinois Environmental Regulatory Group briefly presents the history of Illinois groundwater regulation from before the Clean Water Act, lending context to the cited cases; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides insight into how an alternative federal scheme would apply, absent Clean Water Act regulation; and the Washington Legal Foundation’s brief offers its own theory for how to best fit "Maui" into the existing federal scheme regulating the pollutants at issue. View "Prairie Rivers Network v. Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC" on Justia Law

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Ricci was awarded custody of his daughter in divorce proceedings. Ricci’s daughter receives supplemental security income from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Ricci served as the representative payee to receive and manage her benefits until SSA employees determined that he was not his daughter’s legal guardian. Ricci filed a pro se action in state court.The federal employees removed the case to federal court under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, then moved to dismiss it under the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction. They argued that the state court had no jurisdiction over the case when it was originally filed, so the federal court could not hear the case after it was removed. Ricci, with counsel, amended his complaint to invoke federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1361, which applies to mandamus actions against federal employees.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the amended complaint without prejudice. The derivative jurisdiction doctrine, best understood as a procedural bar to the exercise of federal judicial power, has not been abrogated with respect to the federal officer removal statute at issue. When a defendant timely raises the doctrine, it erects a mandatory bar to the court’s exercise of federal jurisdiction; a plaintiff cannot circumvent that bar merely by filing an amended complaint invoking federal jurisdiction. The court noted that Ricci can file a new complaint in federal court. View "Ricci v. Salzman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Democratic National Committee claimed that Wisconsin statutes would abridge some voters’ rights during the pandemic. A district judge extended the deadline for online and mail-in registration from October 14 to October 21; extended the deadline for delivery of absentee ballots by mail from October 22 by allowing for online delivery and access by October 29; and extended the deadline for the receipt of mailed ballots from November 3 (Election Day) to November 9, if the ballots are postmarked on or before November 3. The Seventh Circuit denied a stay, concluding that none of the appellants has a legal interest for purposes of appeal.The district court did not order the Republican Party intervenors to do something or forbid them from doing anything. The deadlines do not affect any legal interest of either organization or of their members.Appeal by the state, or someone with rights under the contested statute, is essential to review of a decision concerning the validity of a statute. The interest at stake here is not the power to legislate but the validity of rules established by legislation. All of the legislators’ votes were counted; all of the statutes they passed appear in the state’s code. The constitutional validity of a law does not concern any legislative interest. State executive officials are responsible for the vindication of the state’s interest in the validity of enacted legislation.While the Seventh Circuit previously held that Wis. Stat. 803.09(2m) permits the legislature to act as a representative of the state, the Wisconsin Supreme Court subsequently held that the interpretation violates the state’s constitution, which commits to the executive branch the protection of the state’s interest in litigation. View "Wisconsin State Legislature v. Bostelmann" on Justia Law

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An aircraft engine caught fire during testing in South Carolina. Rolls-Royce had manufactured and sold the engine to Boeing for incorporation into a 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Boeing demanded compensation from Rolls-Royce. In 2017, the companies settled for $12 million. Rolls-Royce then sought indemnification from Servotronics, the manufacturer of a valve. Under a long-term agreement between Rolls-Royce and Servotronics, any dispute not resolved through negotiation or mediation must be submitted to binding arbitration in England, under the rules of the Chartered Institute of Arbiters (CIArb). Rolls-Royce initiated arbitration with the CIArb. Servotronics filed an ex parte application in the Northern District of Illinois, seeking a subpoena compelling Boeing to produce documents for use in the London arbitration. The subpoena was issued, then quashed.The Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of Rolls-Royce. A district court may order a person within the district to give testimony or produce documents “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal,” 28 U.S.C. 1782(a). Section 1782(a) does not authorize the district court to compel discovery for use in a private foreign arbitration. View "Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC" on Justia Law

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In 1996, Webster was sentenced to death for the murder of a 16-year-old girl. Webster has repeatedly sought relief from that sentence on the ground he advanced at trial—that he is intellectually disabled. In 2009, his lawyers came upon records dating to 1994 from the Social Security Administration showing that three different doctors found him intellectually disabled. In 2015, the Seventh Circuit held that Webster was not barred by the limitations imposed on successive requests for post-conviction relief from seeking to show that he is ineligible for the death penalty based on newly discovered evidence. The court remanded for a determination of whether the Social Security records constituted newly discovered evidence that counsel did not uncover despite diligent efforts.The district court found that Webster’s defense counsel did not discover the Social Security records despite reasonable diligence at the time of trial, held a five-day hearing, and determined that Webster had carried his burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that he is intellectually disabled. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision to vacate Webster’s death sentence. Documentary evidence established that defense counsel focused on the possible existence of Social Security records and repeatedly requested them. Having demonstrated substantial deficits in intellectual functioning and adaptive functioning and onset of the deficiencies before the age of 18, Webster has carried his burden of proving that he is intellectually disabled and constitutionally ineligible to remain under a death sentence. View "Webster v. Watson" on Justia Law