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

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Illinois State Police Officer Myers supervised 10 controlled drug purchases by a confidential source (CS) at a Cairo residence. Each purchase was recorded on video. The CS initially said that “Cornelius Dean” was selling crack cocaine at the house. Eventually, the CS found out the dealer’s name was Ed. Ed later told the CS that his surname was “Johnson.” Myers searched for an image of an “Ed or Edward Johnson” in the Illinois Secretary of State database but found no match. Alexander County Sheriff Brown suggested Ed’s last name might be Osborne. Myers again checked the state database and discovered that “Phillip Edward Osborne” resided in Cairo. Myers obtained Osborne’s driver’s license photo and concluded that it matched the dealer in the drug buy videos. Myers reported that the CS, upon seeing the photo, unequivocally, identified Osborne. Myers obtained an arrest warrant. Osborne was arrested and remained incarcerated for seven days before being released on bond. The state eventually dismissed the charges.Osborne sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the claims against the county and granted Myers summary judgment on the false arrest claim, finding no evidence to undermine probable cause to arrest Osborne and that Myers was entitled to qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plaintiff failed to overcome the presumption of validity accorded to the warrant and the underlying information, with little more than bare allegations that Myers lied in his warrant application. View "Johnson v. Myers" on Justia Law

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Bennett contends that Division 10 of Cook County Jail does not satisfy the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act because it lacks grab bars and other fixtures that disabled inmates need in order to use showers and toilets safely. Bennett cited a regulation providing that as of 1988, "construction[] or alteration of buildings” must comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), 28 C.F.R. 42.522(b)(1). UFAS requires accessible toilets with grab bars nearby and accessible showers with mounted seats, Division 10 was constructed in 1992.In 2020, the Seventh Circuit reversed the denial of class certification, stating that Bennett “proposes a class that will win if the Standards apply (and were violated, to detainees’ detriment).” On remand, the district court certified a class. More than two years later, the judge decertified the class, reasoning that some class members, although using aids such as wheelchairs, may not be disabled under the statutes.The Seventh Circuit again reversed. The 2020 decision identified an issue relevant to every Division 10 detainee. Class certification under Rule 23(c)(4) resolves the issue, not the whole case. Class members could receive the benefit of a declaratory judgment on the issue but would need to proceed in individual suits to seek damages; if the class loses, every detainee would be bound by issue preclusion. The application of UFAS can be determined class-wide while leaving to the future any particular inmate’s claim to relief. View "Bennett v. Dart" on Justia Law

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Confidential informants participated in controlled purchases from Ramirez that tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine and fentanyl. Officers executed a traffic stop; inside a vehicle operated by Ramirez, they discovered 184.79 grams of a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine and fentanyl. Ramirez pleaded guilty to possessing with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1); (b)(1)(B).The court sentenced him as a career offender (Sentencing Guideline 4B1.1) because he had prior Wisconsin felony convictions for possessing with intent to deliver tetrahydrocannabinol and for manufacturing or delivering cocaine. The court sentenced him to 120 months’ imprisonment. Ramirez asked the Seventh Circuit to reconsider its 2020 “Ruth” holding that an offense need not involve a substance controlled by the Controlled Substances Act to qualify as a predicate “controlled substance offense” under the career offender enhancement, and argued that the district court failed to consider adequately his primary mitigating sentencing argument.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, declining to overrule Ruth. Until the conflicting circuit positions are reconciled, it is arguable "that undercounting career offenders works a substantial injury by failing to protect the public from recidivist drug criminals.” The district court addressed, explicitly and extensively, Ramirez’s arguments about his upbringing, including in reference to the factors and goals of sentencing. View "United States v. Ramirez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Zaragoza, a citizen of Mexico and a lawful U.S. permanent resident, pleaded guilty to the Indiana offense of criminal neglect of a dependent after locking her six-year-old son in a closet for six hours. She was sentenced to one year in jail, suspended to time served plus 30 days. After completing her sentence, she traveled abroad. When she returned, DHS found Zaragoza inadmissible based on the neglect conviction, which the agency classified as a “crime involving moral turpitude,” 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). An immigration judge entered a removal order. In the meantime, Zaragoza petitioned the state court to modify her sentence, to bring herself within the “petty offense” exception to inadmissibility, which is available to first-time offenders sentenced to six months or less. The state court reduced her sentence to 179 days.The BIA rejected Zaragoza’s arguments, finding that the Indiana offense was categorically a crime involving moral turpitude and that the sentence modification order was not effective to establish Zaragoza’s eligibility for the petty-offense exception. The Board relied on a 2019 Attorney General decision declaring that state-court sentence modification orders are effective for immigration purposes only if based on a legal defect in the underlying criminal proceeding (Thomas). The Seventh Circuit remanded. Applying Thomas in Zaragoza’s case is an impermissibly retroactive application of a new rule. View "Zaragoza v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Moore was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison for drug offenses. One factual foundation for the sentence was the district court’s finding that 55.6 grams of methamphetamine found in Moore’s home were 100% pure. Moore argued that a chemist’s affidavit that he submitted was “some evidence” sufficient to call the purity finding into question and that the government failed to support the finding on purity. Moore claimed that the district court erred by placing a burden on him to perform independent testing and by assuming, without supporting evidence, that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s methods for testing purity are reliable and were applied correctly in Moore’s case.The Seventh Circuit remanded for re-sentencing. Moore has a due process right to be sentenced based on reliable information. The district court’s assumption about the general reliability of DEA testing protocols was not supported by any evidence in the record. The “some evidence” standard is not a demanding one. The chemist’s affidavit here did not purport to resolve conclusively the accuracy of the DEA test results, but it raised a fair question about them. View "United St v. Mooatesre" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Milhem applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits, alleging that several conditions limited her ability to work. Milihem, age 38, had completed three years of college and had previously worked as a canvasser, receptionist, portrait photographer, and graphic designer. A vocational expert concluded that the evidence supported limiting Milhem’s work to that which can be learned in 30 days or less, that Milhem could stand or walk for at least two hours in an eight-hour workday, and that Milhem “could make judgments commensurate with functions of simple, repetitive tasks”; such an individual could not perform Milhem’s past work, but could work as a router, price marker, and cafeteria attendant, of which there were approximately 53,000, 307,000, and 63,000 jobs in the national economy, respectively. Changing the exertion level to sedentary, the expert testified, would include the work of an addresser, table worker, or document preparer, of which there were approximately 19,000, 23,000, and 47,000 jobs in the national economy, respectively.Based on this testimony, and “considering [Milhem’s] age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity,” the ALJ found that there were a significant number of jobs that Milhem could perform, so Milhem was not under a qualifying disability. The district court upheld that determination. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A reasonable person would accept 89,000 jobs in the national economy, a figure supported by substantial evidence, as a significant number. Other circuits have accepted similar numbers as significant. View "Milhem v. Kijakazi" on Justia Law

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Atkins pleaded guilty to drug crimes in 2014. After unsuccessfully challenging his conviction, he sued, claiming that the district and magistrate judges committed errors, the prosecutor did not identify herself when talking to Atkins during the case and did not respond to his compassionate release motion, the court reporter “invaded” his transcripts, and his court-appointed attorneys were ineffective. Atkins also sued the United States but did not state any allegations against it. The district judge dismissed the complaint with prejudice as frivolous, stating that he would alternatively dismiss all claims under the Supreme Court’s “Heck” decision because Atkins’s criminal conviction is intact.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. All the acts that Atkins attributes to the judges and prosecutor occurred in the criminal case, within their roles as judge or prosecutor, so they are absolutely immune from suit. The Supreme Court has not implied a Bivens-style constitutional claim against federal officials for transcription errors and an alternate remedy to cure transcript inaccuracies is available. The federal defense attorneys cannot be defendants in a Bivens suit because they did not act under color of law. The United States is not subject to suit in a Bivens action. The court affirmed that Atkins incurred a “strike” under 28 U.S.C. 1915(g) for filing a frivolous suit and another “strike” for filing this frivolous appeal. View "Atkins v. Gilbert" on Justia Law

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As early as 2009, Dickey recruited followers for her church, “DTM,” grooming vulnerable victims and forcing them to disavow their families, live in the church, and work multiple full-time jobs. The victims gave Dickey all their wages, which she kept for herself. She required multiple victims to find employment at Hyatt hotels, where Dickey forced them to falsify reservation bookings, thereby fraudulently misdirecting kickbacks to Dickey’s own travel company. If someone disobeyed, Dickey threatened them with violence and required them to be homeless until she considered them redeemed. Her scheme netted $1.5 million, most of which came from DTM members. She spent over $1 million on personal expenses, such as travel, rental and vacation properties, and luxury hotels.The Seventh Circuit affirmed Dickey’s convictions for wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and forced labor, 18 U.S.C. 1589, upholding the district court’s denial of her fourth motion to continue her trial, rejection of a proposed jury instruction regarding religious liberty, and the imposition of restitution ordering her to pay for future mental health treatment for her victims. Dickey’s proposed instruction would have excused her criminal conduct based on her religious assertions and was not an accurate statement of the law. View "United States v. Dickey" on Justia Law

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Springfield’s publicly-owned utility hires water meter readers, subject to a 12-month probationary period. Mayor Langfelder hired Dunlevy and Murray as meter readers. They received the same pay and reported to the same supervisor. There were five levels of supervision between them and the mayor. Near the end of their probationary periods, both men were investigated. Dunlevy had inaccurately recorded meters at seven different homes, which is a fireable offense even for protected employees. Murray had been starting work late, leaving early, and walking off the job for up to three hours. Murray also failed to disclose a seven-year-old burglary conviction on his application. All of the supervisors unanimously recommended that both men be fired. Langfelder fired Dunlevy, who is white, but not Murray, who is Black.Dunlevy brought an equal protection claim (42 U.S.C. 1983) against Langfelder and an Illinois Human Rights Act claim and a Title VII claim (42 U.S.C. 2000e) against the city for disparate punishment based on race. The Seventh Circuit vacated the dismissal of the case. The district court drew too narrow a comparison: The two men are sufficiently similarly situated for Dunlevy to bring his claims to trial. Dunlevy’s meter curbing undermined the core function of the utility; Murray’s tardiness and absences undermined a basic tenet of any employment: be present. View "Dunlevy v. Langfelder" on Justia Law

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Roldan was convicted of criminal sexual assault. Roldan, then 21, allegedly had sex with an intoxicated 16-year-old noncitizen. The Illinois Appellate Court later reversed the conviction, concluding that the state did not prove that Roldan knew the victim was too intoxicated to consent.Drawing upon information he learned after trial, Roldan sued Cicero, Illinois police officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the officers failed to disclose an agreement to help the victim apply for an immigration benefit—a U visa—in exchange for her testimony. The officers moved to dismiss the complaint based on qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion on grounds that the Supreme Court’s 1972 “Giglio” decision and related cases clearly established the officers’ duty to disclose the agreement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that immunity is inappropriate at this early stage but for a different reason. Qualified immunity hinges on a fact that Roldan did not flesh out in his complaint: whether the police officers informed the prosecution about the U-visa agreement with the victim. If the police did, they cannot be liable, for the ultimate disclosure obligation would have rested with the prosecutors. View "Roldan v. Stroud" on Justia Law