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After Indianapolis police officers Anders and Carmack divorced, Anders stalked and threatened Carmack. The police department eventually opened a criminal investigation and placed a GPS tracking device on Anders's car with a warning mechanism to alert Carmack if he passed nearby. Carmack spent nights away from home so Anders could not locate her. Anders eventually discovered the device on his car and called Robinett—his friend and fellow police officer—who examined it and confirmed that the device was a GPS. Robinett did not tell investigators that Anders had discovered the device. Days later Anders drove to Carmack’s house and killed her and himself. She was not alerted to his approach. Carmack’s estate sued the city, Robinett, and others. The judge granted the defendants summary judgment, holding that Robinett was not liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983 because he did not act under color of state law. Robinett requested that the city pay his attorney’s fees and costs under the Indiana public-employee indemnification statute. The judge denied the motion, ruling that the statute applies only when the employee acted within the scope of his employment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A mere allegation that the employee acted within the scope of his employment does not trigger the indemnification obligation. View "Robinett v. City of Indianapolis" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Kaminski fell down a flight of stairs, suffering a head wound that caused a traumatic brain injury and a seizure disorder. He applied under the Social Security Act for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income 13 years later. The Social Security Administration denied his applications; the district court upheld the denial. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the administrative law judge improperly rejected his treating physician’s opinions. The treating physician’s opinions and the testimony of the vocational expert together show that Kaminski is disabled. View "Kaminski v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Wallace was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole in 2006. A few months after he entered prison, he assaulted a guard. He has been in solitary confinement ever since. Wallace lodged a proposed complaint against prison officials and the Illinois Department of Corrections, alleging that his prolonged isolation exacerbates his mental illness, increases his risk of suicide, and violates his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He is unable to pay the civil filing fee and sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. 1915. The district court denied the motion because Wallace had three “strikes” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act for frivolous cases and did not qualify for the statutory exception for a prisoner who is “under imminent danger of serious physical injury.” The Seventh Circuit vacated. Wallace has alleged sufficiently that he faces imminent danger of serious physical injury and has not yet received three “strikes” under the Act. Wallace cannot attend educational or religious classes, visit the law library used by the general population, or earn income from a prison job. Despite taking antidepressants for PTSD he experiences depression, anxiety, panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, and auditory hallucinations. He has attempted suicide at least five times, including three times during his years in segregation. Wallace’s motion to intervene in another prisoner’s suit under FRCP 24 did not qualify for a strike. View "Wallace v. Baldwin" on Justia Law

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The bankrupt businesses had debts that far exceeded the value of their assets. Bankruptcy courts authorized the sale of their principal assets (gasoline stations and a movie theater and café). Under Illinois law, the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) may pursue the purchaser in a bulk sale for state taxes owed by the seller. To facilitate sales of the debtors’ properties, the bankruptcy court (11 U.S.C. 363(f)) allowed the sales to proceed free of any interests other than the bankruptcy estate's. Under section 363(e), a party whose interest has been removed is entitled to “adequate protection,” typically payment from the sale proceeds to compensate for the decrease in value of the party's interest. Each bankruptcy court assumed that IDOR was entitled to adequate protection but concluded that, because the sale proceeds were insufficient to satisfy the claims of the senior-most creditors (mortgages holders), IDOR was entitled to no portion of the sale proceeds. There were no other assets available. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While the removal of IDOR’s interest likely increased the price bidders were willing to pay for the properties, IDOR has not given a realistic assessment of the value of its interest. The court rejected an argument that IDOR would have recovered 100 percent of the tax delinquency from an informed purchaser; IDOR’s claims were properly denied for want of evidence enabling the bankruptcy court to assign a reasonable value under section 363(e). View "Illinois Department of Revenue v. First Community Financial Bank" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy, Tax Law

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Cortina-Chavez, a citizen of Mexico, entered the U.S. on an unknown date and place, without inspection. He was arrested for DUI in 2010. In subsequent removal proceedings, Cortina-Chavez sought cancellation of removal, asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. An IJ denied cancellation of removal because Cortina-Chavez failed to establish that he had been continuously, physically present in the U.S. for 10 years; denied asylum because he did not submit his application within one year of arrival, and did not come within any exception; denied withholding of removal because Cortina-Chavez failed to demonstrate that he faced persecution in Mexico; and denied his CAT application because he did not establish that it was more likely than not that he would be subject to torture in Mexico. Cortina-Chavez's counsel filed a Notice of Appeal, listing seven “initial arguments,” each stated in conclusory fashion, with no citations, indicating his intent to file a brief. Cortina-Chavez did not timely file a brief. The BIA summarily dismissed his appeal and, through a single member, denied a motion for reconsideration as not identifying any error in law or fact, or any argument that was overlooked. Counsel failed to explain why the appeal was not subject to summary dismissal; did not explain why he never filed the promised brief; cited no authority for requesting a three-member panel; and did not show why his motion should be granted sua sponte. The Seventh Circuit dismissed his petition for review of the BIA’s refusal to grant sua sponte review of its prior decision and denied the remainder of the petition, noting Cortina-Chavez challenged only one of the two independent and adequate reasons for summary dismissal. View "Cortina-Chavez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Allied contracted to ship railroad ties with Wisconsin Central’s parent company, Canadian National, providing that demurrage would begin to accrue after two days of unloading time. Rail carriers are statutorily required to impose demurrage charges when rail cars are detained beyond the time the tariff allows for loading or unloading. Wisconsin Central also entered into an agreement with TiEnergy, which would receive the ties at its Wisconsin facility; grind them for sale to Xcel, which would burn them to generate power; and provide Allied with proof that the ties had been incinerated in an environmentally safe manner. Allied listed TiEnergy as the consignee on all bills of lading. After receiving the ties, TiEnergy unloaded, ground, and sold them. Approximately 100 rail cars used to ship the ties remained on the sidetrack beyond the two-day unloading period. Canadian National billed TiEnergy for demurrage. TiEnergy said that it had not agreed to be identified as the consignee and could not be held responsible. Wisconsin Central sued TiEnergy, seeking to recover approximately $100,000 in demurrage. TiEnergy sought indemnification or contribution from Allied. The district court granted Wisconsin Central and Allied summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The only conclusion a juror could reasonably draw from the undisputed facts is that TiEnergy had both control of and an interest in the ties. View "Wisconsin Central Limited v. Tienergy, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Transportation Law

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On November 6, 2011, Lovelace and another inmate fought over pencils. Officers handcuffed Lovelace and walked him to a van to be taken to the segregation unit. Lovelace kicked through the van window. Lovelace claims that officers carried him out of the van and slammed his face into the ground. Lovelace was then placed inside another van, where officers continued to beat him. At the segregation unit, Officer Smith punched him in the ribs. In a cell, correctional officers removed Lovelace's clothes and continued the assault, leaving Lovelace for several hours without clothing or bedding. Lovelace testified that his eye was swollen shut, that his ribs were bruised, and that he had back pain. He presented evidence from his medical providers. Dr. Bochenek—a psychologist who treated Lovelace at Dixon on January 4, 2012—testified that that Lovelace “discussed his frustration with, what he perceives of as, the lack of attention to the grievance he filed ‘when the C/O’s [correctional officers] kicked my ass.’” The district court redacted the statement—“the C/O’s kicked my ass”—as inadmissible hearsay. Sullivan, a fellow inmate and Lovelace’s only witness to the alleged beating, was unavailable for trial, so designated portions from his deposition were read to the jury. The court excluded Sullivan’s deposition statements that elaborated on his ability to testify truthfully. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of the defendants, upholding those evidentiary rulings. View "Lovelace v. McKenna" on Justia Law

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Indiana uses “drug courts” to tackle substance-abuse problems more flexibly than traditional sentencing regimes, Ind. Code 33-23-16-5. These non-traditional court programs have been shown to reduce recidivism rates in some jurisdictions. The Clark County Drug Treatment Court (DTC) was not a success. Under the stewardship of Judge Jacobi, participants frequently languished in jail for weeks and even months as “sanctions” for noncompliance with program conditions, without the procedural protections required by Indiana law, such as written notice, a right to counsel, or a right to present evidence. DTC staff made arrests despite a clear lack of authority to do so. After these abuses were revealed, program participants filed a putative class action under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Indiana Supreme Court and Indiana Judicial Center shut down the program. The district court denied class certification, dismissed some claims, and resolved most others on summary judgment. A final claim was settled. The plaintiffs failed to win relief. On appeal of due process claims against three defendants and Fourth Amendment claims against two defendants, the Seventh Circuit stated that it had “no doubt that the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights were violated,” but plaintiffs did not establish that these defendants were personally responsible for the systemic breakdown. View "Hoffman v. Knoebel" on Justia Law

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Lieutenant Perales (Hispanic) asked Officer Robinson (biracial) why he did not shave his facial hair in compliance with Department policy. Robinson’s doctor’s note was deemed inadequate. Robinson has folliculitis, a painful skin condition that most often occurs in black men who shave. Weeks later, Robinson revived the issue. Lieutenant Hersey (African‐American) was present. Perales told Robinson that his inquiry was not racially based and recounted that Chicago police used to say that “We don’t back n‐‐‐‐rs up” and Perales claimed, “That’s not me.” Hersey told Perales that this was inappropriate but did not report the incident. Weeks later, Robinson told Perales that he had scheduled another doctor’s appointment and invited Perales to look at his scars, caused by shaving. Perales responded, “it must be the n‐‐‐‐r in you.” Robinson's partner, Pawlik, overheard. Robinson submitted a grievance. Chief Richardson (African-American) imposed a 20‐day suspension. Robinson, Pawlik, and watch commander Spangler noticed that Perales was subjecting Robinson to particular scrutiny. Perales and Hersey directed Spangler to “go against” Robinson and Pawlik. Spangler refused. Another officer reported that Perales had stated that Robinson and Pawlik needed to “watch [their] asses.” Following Robinson's second grievance. Perales was found not to have engaged in any wrongdoing and was reassigned to Internal Affairs. Robinson was passed over for promotion. Spangler received two unwarranted notices of infraction, then was bumped from his watch commander position. In Robinson and Spangler's suit, the court granted the defendants judgment on all claims except for Robinson’s retaliation claim against Perales and the Board. A jury found against Perales and in favor of the Board, awarding Robinson one dollar. The court declined to award Robinson attorneys’ fees. The Seventh Circuit vacated the defendants' judgment on Robinson’s claim for racial harassment and Spangler’s claim for retaliation and otherwise affirmed. View "Spangler v. Perales" on Justia Law

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Capps sued six law enforcement officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983, for failure to intervene in an unlawful search and for use of excessive force. The parties attempted to negotiate a settlement: the defendants offered $47,500; Capps countered with $2 million. The defendants then offered $200,000, Capps demanded $3.5 million. Capps’s final settlement demand was for $3.6 million, which the defendants rejected. At trial, Capps succeeded on eight of his 10 claims, including his failure-to-intervene claims against each defendant and on his excessive-force claims against two defendants. A jury awarded Capps $22,000 in compensatory damages and $10,092 in punitive damages. After trial Capps sought to recover attorney’s fees pursuant to section 1988(b). After a failed settlement conference before a magistrate, the trial judge sua sponte “referred” the fee petition Chief Judge Reagan. No party objected. Judge Reagan explained that he was hearing the motion because he has a special interest in attorney’s fees based on his work with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and other experiences. Judge Reagan denied the petition. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Capps was awarded substantial damages and thus should have been awarded attorney’s fees. View "Capps v. Drake" on Justia Law