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


Police officers in the Chicago PD's Bureau of Organized Crime filed a class action case against the department alleging unpaid overtime for checking emails, sending and receiving text messages and calls during off-duty time. The case, Allen v. City of Chicago, involves a class of 52 officers that were seeking unpaid overtime. Unfortunately for the officers, the district court ruled in favor of the department after a bench trial to a magistrate judge.

Making matters worse for the officers, on appeal to the Seventh Circuit, a three judge panel affirmed the lower courts findings, and refused to disturb the judgment. The appellate court found that the officers failed to establish their case, and that the lower court did not err in reaching their decision that department did not prevent the officers from claiming the unpaid overtime.

ADA Judgment Affirmed Against City

Biagio Stragapede was a city water-worker in Evanston, IL until one day when he tripped on some steps.

It was not serious, but the city placed him on leave and later terminated him because it said he was a safety threat. He had other problems, too, like driving through an intersection without looking and reporting to the wrong job sites.

But the real problem was that Stragapede had recently returned to work from a serious brain injury, and the city didn't think he could do his job. A jury rejected the city's rationale, and so did the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Stragapede v. City of Evanston.

City Traffic Ordinance Claims Dismissed

When a judge says 'hodge-podge' to describe your complaint, you might have a problem.

But if the writing on the wall was not clear enough for the plaintiffs who sued to dispatch their traffic tickets, then the federal appeals court spelled it out for them in the end. Cases, dismissed.

"Although people raise an astonishing variety of claims in the federal courts of this country, the fact remains that there are limits on the subject-matter jurisdiction of those courts," Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote in Lennon v. City of Carmel, Indiana.

Indiana Burglary Includes Fenced Area, 7th Cir. Rules

Can justice be blind when there is an elephant in the room?

It hardly seems possible in a case from Indiana, where an appeals court affirmed a burglary conviction as a "violent felony." An Indiana burglary includes "outdoor, fenced in areas," the court said in United States of America v. Perry, resulting in a sentence enhancement.

Jason Perry complained because, coupled with firearms violations, he got 360 months for his crimes. The elephant in the room, however, was the man had just murdered his ex-girlfriend.

7th Cir. Overturns Conviction of Brendan Dassey From 'Making a Murderer'

Is it bigger news that another murder conviction was overturned, or that the alleged killer was featured in a television series?

In either case, there will be a second season to "Making a Murderer," the Netflix documentary that told the story of Steven Avery, who spent 18 years in prison for being wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and attempted murder.

That's because now there is a new story to tell. Brendan Dassey, who was convicted with Avery in a later murder, has been exonerated by a federal appeals court.

Supreme Court to Review Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case

In a case that could affect elections nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a gerrymandering decision from Wisconsin.

All legislatures draw voting districts to favor the incumbent party, but the court will decide how far they can go in drawing maps along party lines. In Gill v. Whitford, a federal court panel said Republican lawmakers had unlawfully drawn state assembly maps to keep Democrats from securing legislative seats.

While agreeing to review that decision, the Supreme Court also stayed the lower court's order to re-draw the maps while the appeal is pending.

Transgender Teen May Use Boys' Bathroom, Court Rules

A federal appeals court affirmed an injunction allowing a 17-year-old transgender student to use the boys' bathroom at school.

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said Ashton Whitaker, who was born female, will likely prevail on his claim of sexual stereotyping against his school district. Whitaker said the district denied him access to the bathroom in violation of anti-discrimination laws.

The Kenosha Unified School District said it was not sexual stereotyping to require a biological female to use the girls' bathroom, but the appeals court disagreed in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District.

"By definition, a transgender individual does not conform to the sex-based stereotypes of the sex that he or she was assigned at birth," Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote for the court, adding: "A policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non-conformance, which in turn violates Title IX."

Court Vacates Police Officers' Suit Over Order to Cover Tattoos

A federal appeals court vacated a lawsuit by police officers who sued because their department ordered them to cover their tattoos.

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said the controversy was moot because the plaintiffs prevailed in a related arbitration, and the city rescinded its tattoo order. In Medici v. City of Chicago, the appeals court said there was nothing left to decide -- even though the city had prevailed in the trial court.

"So what should be done with the district judge's grant of judgment in favor of the City?," Judge Richard Posner asked rhetorically.

" The answer is "vacatur [that is, erasing a judgment so that its legal effect is as if it had never been written, vacatur being Latin for "it is made void"] is in order when mootness occurs through ... the 'unilateral action of the party who prevailed in the lower court.'"

No Disability for Psychological Electromagnetic Distress

A federal appeals court summarily dispatched a lawsuit for psychological distress caused by electromagnetic voltage.

In a three-page opinion -- including one page for the caption -- the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a dismissal against a Travelodge employee in Hirmiz v. New Harrison Hotel Corp. George D. Hirmiz had sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming he suffered from exposure to electromagnetic voltage at the hotel.

Civil Rights Law Includes LGBT Job Bias

In a historic decision, a federal appeals court ruled that civil rights laws protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace.

It is the first time in the United States that a court has extended the 1964 Civil Rights Act to workers who identify with the LGBT community. Other courts traditionally have said that sexual orientation was not protected because it was not defined in the Civil Rights Act.

"For many years, the courts of appeals of this country understood the prohibition against sex discrimination to exclude discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation," Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the en banc majority. "We conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination."