U.S. Seventh Circuit - FindLaw

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


Lex, the drug-sniffing dog, has been a very bad boy. No, Lex didn't bite anyone. He never peed on the carpet or tore apart an officer's shoe. Rather, Lex sniffed drugs on just about everyone he encountered -- whether there were drugs present or not.

Lex's nose was just about as accurate as a coin toss, according to the Seventh Circuit. Lex's poor drug-sniffing skills weren't bad enough to remove probable cause, however. Lex's shortcomings did allow the court, in an opinion released Tuesday, to highlight the risk of police using inaccurate dogs as a pretext for otherwise unconstitutional searches.

You won't find him wandering the streets of Chicago anytime soon, let alone reviving his political career, but ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich became a bit less of a felon yesterday, as the Seventh Circuit tossed out five of his 18 convictions. Blagojevich, you may remember, was arrested while serving as Governor of Illinois in 2009, after investigators caught him trying to sell Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

Blagojevich was convicted on 18 counts of corruption, attempted extortion, wire fraud, and associated crimes. Mistakes in jury instructions require that five of those convictions be vacated, the Seventh Circuit ruled.

Got bad precedent? Differentiate it. Did a question certified to a state court come out not in your favor? Try to spin it. But remember, there are limits to legal interpretation. If you're not careful, you might soon find yourself simply denying reality.

This is exactly what happened to FedEx, according to the Seventh Circuit. For nine years, FedEx had classified its drivers as independent contractors, not employees, leading to litigation throughout the country. When the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the drivers were employees under state law, FedEx simply attempted to ignore that reality, much to the Seventh Circuit's chagrin.

An armed robber who was discovered and prosecuted years after the crime has failed in his challenge to his conviction. Pascal Sylla, convicted in 2013 of committing a 2003 robbery in Anderson, Indiana, challenged a federal law which extended statutes of limitations when new DNA evidence links an individual to the felony.

That law, which essentially resets the statutory clock when a DNA connection is discovered, is not unconstitutional, the Fourth Circuit ruled on Thursday.

Racial discrimination in the workplace often results in grievances that are sad or even painful to hear about. That wasn't the case with the discrimination case brought by police sergeant Michael Miller. In writing his decision, Judge Posner didn't seem too impressed with Miller's list of grievances.

Miller held a stable position in a detective bureau in Indiana. In 2010, he ran unsuccessfully for Sheriff. He subsequently asked the new sheriff if he could be appointed as warden of the county jail or assistant chief of the police department. When he was passed over for these positions, his situations went from bad to worse.

A supervisor who allegedly ignored complaints that her parole officer was sexually harassing his parolees does not have qualified immunity, the Seventh Circuit ruled on Friday. According to a lawsuit filed by Adam Locke, a Minnesota parolee, Mya Haessig repeatedly ignored complaints that Locke was being sexually harassed by his parole officer and threatened him with retaliation for pursuing those complaints.

Failure to act on the sexual harassment complaints was a violation of Locke's equal protection rights, according to the court, and a reasonable jury could find that Haessig's failure to act was a form of discrimination against men who report sexual harassment.

Times are tough for executioners. Society has long moved passed the more flamboyant forms of capital punishment -- hanging, firing squad, guillotine -- and even the remaining methods might amount to torture. That is, if you can even find someone to use them on.

The Seventh Circuit isn't making any executioners' lives easier either. The court threw out the death sentence of a man convicted of killing an Indiana sheriff's deputy. The Seventh tossed the death sentence after the Indiana Supreme Court wrongfully ignored the defendant's low IQ scores and made false assumptions about his intellectual ability based on the fact that he could obtain work.

7th Cir. Actually Grants an Immigration Appeal Petition

It's almost as a rare day when a federal circuit court grants review of a case from the Board of Immigration Appeals as it is when a federal circuit court grants a habeas petition. Today turned out to be Ashraf Habib's lucky day.

The government wanted Habib deported for misrepresenting the fact of his marital status in Pakistan in order to gain U.S. residency. The Seventh Circuit concluded that ineffective assistance of counsel led to Habib's current predicament and granted his petition for review.

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.