U.S. Seventh Circuit - FindLaw

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


Judge Posner hates ostriches. The large, flightless birds, erroneously thought to bury their heads in the sand at the sight of danger, are one of the Judge's favorite insults. Did you ignore adverse precedent? Ostrich! Somehow fail to check citing references? Ostrich conduct!

That doesn't mean he thinks ostrich behavior is criminal, however. Sometimes, closing your eyes to a problem is acceptable, the judge ruled yesterday. Overturning a conviction for conspiring to distribute cocaine, Posner rejected the use of "ostrich" instructions which urged a jury to convict if the defendant had deliberately avoided discovering his role in a trafficking scheme.

Notre Dame has again been denied injunctive relief in its challenge to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate. The Catholic university had claimed that being connected in even the most minor way to the provision of birth control to its faculty and students violated its religious beliefs.

Last March, the Seventh Circuit refused to grant Notre Dame an injunction protecting it from the Affordable Care Act's mandate, prompting the Supreme Court to send the case back for reconsideration in light of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The Seventh reconsidered and announced yesterday that it was right the first time around.

Illinois, like many states, was facing a funding crisis: State liabilities to public employees on pensions have been on the rise as more and more employees retire, with no proportional increase in funding for those pensions. The state could either raise more money or cut benefits.

Which one did legislators pick?

The Girl Scouts are known far and wide for their cookies, but the Girl Scouts proved to be less than sweet when it came to Megan Runnion.

Runnion, a deaf girl, received sign language interpreters in order to help her participate in Girl Scout activities. When the Girl Scouts pulled the interpreters, Runnion's mother complained. The Girls Scouts' response? They disbanded her troop. Megan's mother alleged that ran afoul of a federal law called the Rehabilitation Act.

In a reminder that sentencing can be a difficult balancing act, the Seventh Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Posner, has vacated the sentence imposed on a recidivist substance abuser. The judgment was reversed technically for failure to consult the relevant sentencing guidelines, though the court didn't hesitate to tell the district court judge that he ought to reconsider the conditions of supervised release as well.

The opinion addresses the case of Joshua Downs, who six months after he was given probation for a drug offense, injured another while drunk driving. His probation revoked, Downs was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and ten years of supervised release -- without the judge examining the sentencing guidelines for his offense.

When Stephanie Miller proposed a condo development in the Madison suburb of Monona, Wisconsin, she soon discovered how quickly small town politics could get in her way. After a falling out with a former mayor over another development, her proposed condos suddenly faced a very rocky approval process. Miller found herself subject to a slew of roadblocks.

Eventually she went to court, alleging that she had been discriminated against as a "class-of-one." Miller alleged that she was being selectively prosecuted and that city officials had singled her out for unfavorable treatment, without a rational basis, when compared to similarly situated persons, such as the former major's son, whose developments had gone ahead without a hitch.

Highland Park's assault weapon ban does not violate the Second Amendment, the Seventh Circuit ruled on Monday. The ritzy Chicagoland suburb had banned the weapons in 2013, in part to evade a state law which would have prevented future legislation on such bans. The issue was so contentious at the time that residents skipped the Stanley Cup finals to debate the issue.

Judge Easterbrook wrote the opinion, with Judge Williams joining and Manion dissenting. The two justice majority asserted that Supreme Court precedent should not be read like legislation, governing the totality of Second Amendment rights, and that many questions regarding weapons, crime and self-defense are best left to the political process.

The Free Exercise Clause lets practitioners of Santeria in Florida ritually slaughter chickens, and lets a Muslim inmate have a half-inch-long beard.

Add David Schlemm to the list. He's a member of the Navajo tribe, imprisoned in Wisconsin, who wants to be able to practice certain religious rituals, namely eating venison and wearing a multicolored bandana while praying.

And you know what? The Seventh Circuit, led by Judge Frank Easterbrook, said OK.

A Mongolian business man will get a second chance at asylum after the Seventh Circuit found that his credibility was inappropriately denied based on poorly conducted airport interviews. Gonchigsharav Nadmid had arrived in the United States in 2009, seeking asylum from alleged corruption and abuse by Mongolian politicians.

An immigration judge found Nadmid to lack credibility, however, based largely on airport interviews conducted on his arrival -- and in Russian. Since those interviews revealed a significant language barrier, the Seventh Circuit held, the immigration judge was wrong to rely on them to discount Nadmid's credibility.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson's suit challenging Obamacare's changes to congressional health plans was dismissed by the Seventh Circuit for lack of standing on Tuesday. Johnson and his legislative counsel had sued after the Affordable Care Act resulted in changes to their healthcare options, including federal subsidies for their health care plans. Johnson, however, had purchased his own private healthcare instead of participating in the federal program.

The two couldn't show an injury, needed to provide standing to sue, a unanimous Seventh Circuit ruled. The government had simply provided them a benefit which they refused.