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


Court: Brendan Dassey's 'Making a Murderer' Confession Was Voluntary

If the U.S.Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals were a trial court, Brendan Dassey would be a free man now.

The appeals court split over the case, voting 4-3 that Dassey's murder confession was voluntary. The dissent said the 16-year-old's confession came through a "perfect storm" of interrogations.

"No reasonable state court, knowing what we now know about coercive interrogation techniques and viewing Dassey's interrogation in light of his age, intellectual deficits, and manipulability, could possibly have concluded that Dassey's confession was voluntarily given," Judge Illena Rovner wrote in Dassey v. Dittmann.

Judge David Hamilton of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has some rather novel advice for lawyers that would likely make his former colleague, Judge Posner, smile ear to ear: Pick up the phone and call (or email) opposing counsel before filing your motion with the court, especially those administrative case management motions.

While this cold-blooded calling out in an appellate in-chambers opinion was phrased much more eloquently, in short, Judge Hamilton explains that it is much easier for the court to rule on case management motions if the moving party certifies that the opposing party does not oppose the motion. Rather than waiting for the requisite time for an opposing party to file an opposition to expire, if a court knows the other side doesn't oppose the motion, it can grant it sooner.

Expedia, and other online travel agencies, won a major victory in the fight over local hotel taxation. Thirteen cities in the state of Illinois filed a lawsuit attempting to hold the online booking sites liable for failing to withhold local hotel taxes. After the district court dismissed the cities' claims, an appeal was made to the Seventh Circuit.

Essentially, cities were trying to get the tax revenue on the difference between the actual booking price of a hotel room online and the price the hotels charge to those online travel agencies making the bookings, like Expedia, Orbitz and others. Unfortunately for the cities involved, both the district and appellate courts found that the hotel tax laws do not apply to the online travel/booking services.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was tasked again with reviewing a class action matter that involved an attorney who sent thousands of unsolicited "junk faxes" to prospective clients. This is the third time that this same junk fax case has been before this circuit.

While sending unsolicited solicitations can run amok of ethical rules, the attorney at the center of it all actually found himself facing allegations of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which requires "junk faxes" to contain an "opt-out" provision. This last appeal, though unsuccessful, presented another, albeit much more novel, approach to gutting the potential $4.2 million award.

Remember Jared? He was just that everyday overweight American who lost more than half his body weight by eating a submarine sandwich every day. How could you forget someone that epitomized the American dream so well?

He was one of the spokesmen that people were actually inspired by. Which was what made his recent conviction for child pornography all the more shocking. Many people pictured him as a wholesome individual, who, with hard work and eating a submarine sandwich a day, got skinny, then became famous.

Unfortunately for some people that bought into the shtick, they got neither. And the Seventh Circuit, having already rejected Fogle, was likely not pleased when another motion landed on their bench, and were probably saddened that Judge Posner was no longer on the bench as a benchslapping may have been in order for the sandwich king of cellblock 2, now a pro se litigant presenting a sovereign citizen defense.

'Go Topless' Day at the Seventh Circuit

Some cases naturally get more attention than others, like the 'Go Topless' case.

It started in 2014 when Sonoku Tagami celebrated "GoTopless Day" by walking half-naked around Chicago. She wore nothing over breasts but body paint, and received a $100 fine for violating a public nudity law.

The case could have ended there, but the woman sued, saying she has a right to bare her breasts in public. Now the case is back in the news, and one appeals court judge agrees with her.

Seventh Circuit Ponders Abortion Ultrasound Rule

If Planned Parenthood has a war room, the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Circuit Courts of Appeal are in the middle of the battle plan.

The federal circuits take up the center ground in the United States, including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio. The appeals courts are dealing with contentious abortion issues in all their jurisdictions.

A judge in the Sixth Circuit struck an abortion ultrasound law a month ago, and now the Seventh Circuit is deciding a similar issue.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the appeals of two animal rights activists charged under the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act (AETA). The appeal challenged the act itself as unconstitutional, and also charged that the use of word terrorist denied the activists substantive due process rights.

After losing their motion to dismiss based on those issues, the appellants pleaded guilty to the charges on the condition that they be allowed to appeal the motion ruling. Unfortunately for them, their appeal was denied, leaving them unable to escape their sentencing, unlike the furry friends they helped.

Court Hears Challenge to School's Christmas Program

Gavin Rose, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, was musically unprepared for his appearance at the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Frank Easterbrook, considering the ACLU's challenge to a Christmas concert at an Indiana high school, asked Rose whether Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion" would violate the U.S. Constitution. Rose said he didn't know the piece and apologized for his lack of musical knowledge.

"Oh dear, that is a problem," Easterbrook said in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Concord Community Schools.

If judicial benchslaps were a literary genre, retired judge Richard Posner would be the Charles Dickens of benchslaps. From attorneys, to litigants, to other courts, if Judge Posner had an opinion, he made it known, regardless of hurt feelings or social sensitivities.

However, in an interesting twist of fate, one of Posner's most notorious benchslaps has just resulted in an appellate court reversal, by his own former Seventh Circuit. Making the matter even more contentious, particularly given his recent commitment to helping pro se litigants, the reversal concerns his handling of a pro se litigant's federal district court trial. Compounding the controversy, the reversal seems to be completely attributed to Judge Posner's inability to maintain judicial decorum.