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Ferrill was hired as Edgewood Elementary School's principal for an initial two-year term with an automatic third-year rollover unless the Board of Education opted out. Ferrill is black; the district serves predominantly white suburbs on the southern edge of Milwaukee County. While she was principal, Edgewood's staff had exceedingly low morale. Ferrill had multiple performance complaints. Staff described her as confrontational, inconsistent, and quick to claim racism. The superintendent hired a consultant to improve Ferrill’s performance. The consultant recommended termination. The Board opted out of the rollover, at the superintendent's recommendation. Ferrill found a new job, which the Board treated as a functional resignation. She sued, alleging racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981, and retaliation under Title VII and the First Amendment. The district judge granted the Board summary judgment on some claims. A jury rejected others after less than 30 minutes of deliberation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Ferrill’s shortcomings were well documented and confirmed by an independent consultant, so she did not establish that she was meeting legitimate performance expectations and thus did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The retaliation claim failed for lack of evidence connecting the Board’s decision to activity protected by Title VII. View "Ferrill v. Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District" on Justia Law

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Ijbara owned a strip mall in Oak Lawn, Illinois, but defaulted on his mortgage payments, precipitating a foreclosure. He blamed Oak Lawn officials for waging a campaign of regulatory harassment that included frivolous inspections and citations for nonexistent or trumped-up building-code violations, which cost him money and scared off prospective tenants. In December 2013, he filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that this abuse of power violated his right to equal protection of the law. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the suit as time-barred. Ijbara’s claim accrued when the foreclosure action was filed, or at the very latest, when the judge presiding in that action appointed a receiver to take control of the mall on April 22, 2011. Ijbara’s suit, filed almost three years later, missed the two-year limitations deadline. The court rejected an argument that his claim did not accrue until the state court entered final judgment in the foreclosure action. “Ijbara confuses the eventual consequences of a constitutional violation with the constitutional injury that starts the limitations clock. Ijbara was well aware of his injury and its cause long before the entry of final judgment in the foreclosure proceeding.” View "Amin Ijbara Equity Corp v. Village of Oak Lawn" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Smith, a Putnam County police officer, of violating 18 U.S.C. 242, by subjecting two men to the intentional use of unreasonable and excessive force, and violating their civil rights. Smith’s fellow police officers had testified against him, describing two separate, unwarranted attacks on arrestees who were fully under control. Smith had bragged about his behavior and mocked those who objected. Smith had a prior conviction for misdemeanor battery of a three-year-old child and the child’s mother, who was then Smith’s wife. Smith had not taken responsibility for his actions, had “unaddressed anger control issues,” and had engaged in other misconduct that had not resulted in criminal charges. The district court sentenced Smith to 14 months’ imprisonment, less than half the low end of the guidelines range. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Smith’s conviction but vacated the sentence. On remand, the court again sentenced Smith to 14 months’ imprisonment and again failed to adequately explain or justify the below-guidelines sentence. The Seventh Circuit again vacated and remanded, citing the “thin rationale” for the sentence. The court’s brief mention of the nature and circumstances of the offense affords no basis to review its exercise of discretion. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Tibbs, an administrative assistant in the Illinois court system, was suspended the day she returned to work after taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2601. She was then fired after she chose not to attend a disciplinary meeting. Her supervisor, a judge in the judicial circuit in which she was employed, sent a letter citing several instances of misconduct, including insubordination. Tibbs sued the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, contending that the agency employed her and that she was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave. The district court granted summary judgment for the agency, reasoning that it never employed Tibbs and thus could not have discharged her, and that in any event, there was no evidence of retaliation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Tibbs cannot point to evidence from which a jury could reasonably infer that any of her supervisors harbored retaliatory animus against her. The court did not resolve the question whether the Administrative Office employed Tibbs. View "Tibbs v. Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts" on Justia Law

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Because the state proposed to use federal highway funds to widen Wisconsin Route 23, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued an environmental impact statement (EIS). USDOT made a record of decision (ROD) permitting the use of federal funds. Opponents filed suit. The court denied a request for an injunction because Wisconsin can proceed using its own money regardless of whether USDOT satisfied the requirements for a federal contribution, but set aside the ROD, finding that the statement projecting 2035 traffic loads had not adequately disclosed all assumptions. USDOT issued a revised EIS with additional details about how the traffic estimates had been generated. The district court reiterated the order vacating USDOT’s ROD. The judge stated that plaintiff was entitled to a declaratory judgment but neglected to issue one. The order setting aside the ROD was appealed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal. USDOT did not appeal. Wisconsin remains free to continue the project at the state’s expense. The National Environmental Policy Act, on which the suit rests, applies only to the national government, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C). Wisconsin cannot seek relief against a judgment that does not bind it. Wisconsin does not contend that USDOT had a statutory duty to fund the project, to prepare a better EIS, or to appeal the decision. View "1000 Friends of Wisconsin, Inc v. Wisconsin Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Coleman was hired to work at Carmen High School and was fired about three weeks later, based on allegations of sexual harassment. Coleman filed a pro se suit, alleging racial discrimination. The suit ended with a stipulated dismissal. Coleman sought relief from the state Equal Rights Division; an ALJ dismissed Coleman’s case for failure to meet deadlines. Coleman filed another pro se suit, contending that the Commission had denied him due process and requesting to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), 28 U.S.C. 1915. He consented to proceed before a magistrate, who found the request to proceed IFP financially supported but ordered Coleman to submit an amended complaint. The new complaint also failed to “offer any details that could plausibly present a federal cause of action.” The magistrate entered judgment, citing 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2), which calls for “the court” to “dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that … the action … fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Because the Commission had not been served, the magistrate was proceeding with the consent of only one litigant. The Seventh Circuit remanded: A plaintiff’s consent alone cannot give a magistrate the necessary authority to resolve a case on the basis that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, in a case that otherwise requires an Article III judge. View "Coleman v. Department of Labor Review Commission" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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In 2011, Jackson was convicted and Kelly pleaded guilty to cocaine-related charges. The Seventh Circuit remanded Jackson's 360-month sentence for consideration under the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) based on the Supreme Court’s 2012 "Dorsey" holding. With a new Guidelines range of 262-327 months, the court sentenced Jackson to 200 months’ imprisonment. Jackson then filed a pro se 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Jackson testified that his attorney, Ratcliffe, advised that the only way to preserve an FSA claim was to go to trial. Kelly testified that he told Jackson that he could take a plea agreement and preserve his right to argue that the FSA on appeal and that Jackson wanted to discuss this information with Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe testified that “Jackson never told [him] that he wanted to explore plea agreements.” A magistrate recommended granting Jackson’s petition, finding that Jackson established deficient performance and prejudice. The credibility assessment came out in Jackson’s favor. The district court nonetheless denied Jackson’s petition, stating that Jackson was unable to establish prejudice and rejecting the magistrate’s credibility determinations. The Seventh Circuit vacated. A district court may not reject a magistrate’s credibility findings, based on a witness’s live testimony, without first holding a de novo evidentiary hearing. View "Jackson v. United States" on Justia Law

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An individual attempted to purchase prescription drugs from Jennings in Hudson, Wisconsin. Jennings put a gun to his head; Jennings’ girlfriend stole the purchaser’s money from his truck. After the victim reported the robbery, police stopped Jennings’ car. Nearby, police found a loaded semi-automatic handgun that Jennings’ girlfriend had thrown from his vehicle shortly before he was stopped. Jennings pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm following a felony conviction, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). Jennings’ criminal history included a Minnesota conviction for simple robbery and two Minnesota convictions for felony domestic assault. The pre-sentence report treated those convictions as crimes of violence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e), and U.S.S.G. 4B1.4. Jennings argued that the offenses did not categorically involve the use or threatened use of violent physical force and did not qualify as violent felonies. The district court rejected the argument and stated that Jennings’ two convictions for making terroristic threats also constituted convictions for a violent crime. The district court elected to impose a below-Guidelines sentence of 180 months, the lowest sentence that the ACCA permitted him to impose. The Seventh Circuit, employing the categorical approach, affirmed the categorization of the prior convictions as crimes of violence. View "United States v. Jennings" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiffs brought a class action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the practices of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and the Consolidated City of Indianapolis and Marion County caused them to be detained in jail awaiting release for an unreasonably long period of time, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court granted certification for two proposed subclasses but denied it as to three. Plaintiffs appealed, under FRCP 23(f), the denial of certification of classes consisting of individuals who, from December 2012 to the present, were held in confinement after legal authority for those detentions ceased, due to the Sheriff’s practices of operating under a standard of allowing up to 72 hours to release prisoners who are ordered released and of employing a computer system inadequate for the purposes intended with respect to timely release of prisoners. The Seventh Circuit allowed the interlocutory appeal and reversed. The district court believed that detentions of less than 48 hours would be presumptively reasonable, and those that extended beyond 48 hours would be presumptively unreasonable, subjecting class members to different burdens of proof. The court erred in applying the 48-hour presumption in the context of a class composed of persons for whom legal authority for detention has ceased, whether by acquittal, release on bond, completion of the sentence, or otherwise. View "Driver v. Marion County Sheriff's Department" on Justia Law

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Herrera-Ramirez is a citizen of Mexico but has lived in the U.S. since she was six years old. She is married and has four U.S.-citizen children. She was at a Milwaukee bar when her friends got into a fight with other patrons. Herrera-Ramirez ushered her friends out of the bar and into her car, intending to leave. At the request of her friend, she drove past the other patrons who were standing outside the bar. Her passenger shot two of the bystanders. After the shooting, Herrera-Ramirez did not contact the police. The police found her, arrested her, and found the gun in her car. She was convicted of first-degree reckless injury and sentenced to 11 months in prison. An IJ and the BIA found that her offense was a “particularly serious crime” and that she was ineligible for withholding of removal (the only possible relief). The Seventh Circuit dismissed her petition for review from that determination for lack of jurisdiction; a court may not second-guess the Board’s decision that a crime is “particularly serious” under 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii), unless the petitioner has raised a question of law. Herrera-Ramirez was disputing only the Board’s discretionary characterization of her offense. View "Herrera-Ramirez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law