U.S. Seventh Circuit - FindLaw

U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


Debra Kauffman worked as a hairdresser at a nursing home. Part of her duties involved regular hairdresser-type stuff, but two days a week, she had to wheel residents who were in wheelchairs to and from their appointments in the nursing home's beauty shop. The trip from residential room to beauty shop took her 500 feet, at most, and over some ramps. Residents ranged in weight from 75 to 400 pounds, with an average of about 120 pounds.

Kauffman underwent surgery in 2010, requiring her not to push or lift anything during the recovery period. Her doctor wrote a letter to her employer saying so, but the employer said it couldn't accommodate her disability, so Kauffman quit and filed an ADA claim.

What do you do with a questionable appeal of a questionable case from a formerly pro se plaintiff -- one who has hired and fired two lawyers, not counting his third lawyer, who now represents him on appeal?

Many courts would dismiss his claims in a cursory unpublished opinion, one that would be lost in a stack of unread, non-precedential judgments. Fortunately, Judge Richard Posner wanted to make a point in this opinion, albeit a minor one that has very little to do with the pro se plaintiff.

But legal points can wait -- let's first take a minute to review this entertaining example of the problem with pro se plaintiffs:

Let's step back a second and take a look at where Wisconsin's voter ID law is. On September 12, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments on the validity of Wisconsin's voter ID law. Almost immediately afterward, the panel stayed the district court's injunction, allowing Wisconsin to enforce the law. Several groups requested a rehearing on the stay, which the court denied, along with a sua sponte request by one of the Seventh Circuit judges to rehear the motion en banc. On October 6, the panel issued its opinion finding the law constitutional.

Then on October 9, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a short order -- with a dissent from Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas -- vacating the September 12 order, preventing Wisconsin from enforcing the law for this election. A day later, the Seventh Circuit denied Judge Richard Posner's sua sponte request to rehear the case en banc.

Anna Nicole Smith. Long has she been gone, but never will she be forgotten, especially not to those of us who have to deal with her legal legacy: Stern v. Marshall. The Supreme Court held that non-Article III bankruptcy courts could not enter final judgment on unresolved state law counterclaims. Now, the Court will decide whether these Stern claims can be waived, implicitly or explicitly.

And if non-Article III courts' jurisdiction doesn't interest you, we'd bet that the jurisdiction of an Article III court to review the sufficiency of a government agency's statutorily mandated duty sure will! The EEOC claims that its mandated settlement efforts are beyond the scrutiny of the courts, and the Seventh Circuit agreed. Will SCOTUS?

So here's where we are in the saga of Wisconsin's voter ID law. Last month, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments on the legality of the state law requiring, like many states' laws these days, state-issued photo IDs in order to vote. Hours after the oral arguments, the panel issued an order staying enforcement of the district court's order -- meaning the state can enforce the law pending outcome of the appeal.

The ACLU sought an emergency motion to reconsider the stay. Yesterday, the court issued its opinion on this motion: The panel denied the motion, along with a sua sponte request to rehear the motion en banc (because the request for an en banc rehearing was a 5-5 split, the en banc rehearing was denied) in a contentious opinion that saw a dissent by the five judges in favor of rehearing.

An ordinance in Springfield, Illinois, prohibits panhandling in the historic downtown shopping district. The ordinance is specific in that panhandling is an oral request for money right now -- not an immediate request for money via a sign or an oral request for money at a later date.

Don Norton and Karen Otterson are panhandlers who've been arrested numerous times for violating the ordinance. On appeal to the Seventh Circuit, they claimed that the ordinance infringed on their First Amendment rights.

As you've no doubt read before, Wisconsin state officials are investigating Governor Scott Walker's office for violations of campaign finance laws. The allegations -- which came to light through the Seventh Circuit's inadvertent disclosure of documents -- were that the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a political advocacy organization, had illegally coordinated with Governor Scott Walker's anti-recall efforts.

At the same time a criminal investigation against "John Doe" targets was ongoing, Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board launched its own investigation and subpoenaed documents from the Club for Growth.

On Friday, the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Frank v. Walker and seemed unimpressed by arguments against Wisconsin's voter ID law. In fact, the judges were so unimpressed that the panel issued an order, mere hours later, granting a stay pending appeal (allowing the voter ID requirements to go into effect mere weeks before November's elections).

Now, the ACLU is seeking an expedited en banc rehearing, hoping that arguments about the impossibility of instituting a voter ID requirement at the last minute without disenfranchising thousands of voters will sway the full court.

On Friday, a panel of the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Frank v. Walker, a challenge to Wisconsin's voter ID law (listen to an MP3 here).

Following oral arguments, the panel issued an order allowing enforcement of the state's voter ID law, which means the law will likely be in effect during the upcoming November 4 election.

Predictably, both Indiana and Wisconsin are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court following their blistering loss last week at the Seventh Circuit.

At both oral arguments and in the written opinion, Judge Richard Posner did almost as much damage to them as Tom Brady did to my fantasy football team over the weekend.

Here's a look at what the two states are arguing in their petitions: