U.S. Seventh Circuit - FindLaw

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


No Reduced Sentence for a Snitch Who Ran Too Soon

Tyran ran.

That was the problem for Tyran Patton, a government informant who lost out on a sentence reduction because he took off in the middle of an investigation. A major drug dealer in the Chicago area, he was supposed to testify before a grand jury but disappeared before returning to face his own charges.

Because he had helped authorities bust some street-level offenders, Patton wanted prosecutors to ask the court for a lower sentence. They declined, and the court sentenced him to 224 months in prison.

Brendan Dassey was convicted in 2007, alongside his uncle Steven Avery, of the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach. That conviction, however, was based on a confession a federal judge found to be coerced. Halbach's murder, and the investigation that followed, were the subject of Netflix's 2015 hit, "Making a Murderer" and Dassey's manipulation by prosecutors, and by his own attorney, became one of the major stories to emerge from the film.

Now Dassey's case is before the Seventh Circuit, where a three-judge panel recently heard oral arguments over whether or not Dassey's confession was valid.

7th Circuit Snuffs Out Indiana's Vaping Law

To say that Indiana's vaping law was overreaching would be an understatement.

In snuffing out portions of the state's law, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said that it could not find a single case in 200 years of precedent to support Indiana's legislation as it affected business in the state and beyond. The court said the law basically put everybody out of business except one company.

"These circumstances raise obvious concerns about protectionist purposes and what looks very much like a legislative grant of monopoly," Judge David Hamilton wrote for the unanimous court.

The Indiana legislature enacted the law in 2015, requiring vaping businesses that manufacture e-liquids to contract with a security company in order to obtain a state permit. The law was so restrictive, a dozen Indiana vaping companies soon closed their shops. Only one company -- Mulhaupt's Inc., located in Lafayette -- survived.

Court: Cable Company Not Liable for Keeping Customer's Personal Data

A federal appeals court has rejected a consumer's suit against Time Warner Cable for retaining personal information he gave the company when he subscribed to its services.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal said the plaintiff did not have any damages or standing to sue the cable company. The plaintiff claimed the company violated the Cable Communications Policy Act, which provides that a cable operator "shall destroy personally identifiable information if the information is no longer necessary."

The appellate court said the act also imposes a duty on cable operators to retain rather than destroy subscriber information for specified reasons. Affirming a dismissal of the case for lack of standing, the justices said the plaintiff had not shown any plausible risk of harm.

A Honduran immigrant with HIV has been given a second shot at escaping deportation, after a divided Seventh Circuit remanded his deportation case for reconsideration last Thursday -- and issued a harsh critique of the immigration judge who heard it, saying she "made a hash" of the record.

Rigoberto Velasquez-Banegas immigrated to America, without authorization, in 2005. In 2014, the government sought to deport him. But Velasquez-Banegas argued he would face severe persecution in his native Honduras, where his HIV status would be taken as a proxy for his homosexuality, exposing him to homophobic threats and violence. It was an argument, the Seventh ruled, that deserves another look.

7th Circuit Shoots Down Firing Range Laws

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals shot down key provisions of Chicago's embattled gun laws, striking down a 500-foot zoning restriction for shooting ranges and a ban on children from entering them.

The decision marked another defeat for Chicago in its fight over gun use since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out its ban on handguns in 2010. The city responded by outlawing shooting ranges, but the Seventh Circuit invalidated that law.

"Range training is not categorically outside the Second Amendment," the court said. "To the contrary, it lies close to the core of the individual right of armed defense."

If you've ever run into the so-called 'sovereign citizen' theory of the law, you know that it is, well, complete BS. The sovereign citizen movement is based on a strange interpretation of common law, the Uniform Commercial Code, and maritime law, which followers believe allows them to avoid taxes and pretty much all legal authorities. It's a movement based out of conspiracy, confusion, and a paranoid view of reality. It's just nuts.

But Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner is taking some heat from his colleagues for saying as much in court. Faced with a pro se sovereign citizen defendant in 2015, Posner showed little patience for the man's arguments, calling them "complete bullshit." Now his colleagues are considering whether Posner's frustration denied the man a fair trial.

No Part-Time Vacation at Red Lobster, Court Rules

A federal appeals court has rejected a class action claim that Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and other restaurants failed to pay part-timers vacation pay.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said that two employees failed to qualify for class action status because they were not proper representatives, particularly because they were part-time employees and vacation was offered only to full-time employees. Under Illinois wage laws, the court said, the restaurants were not required to pay part-time employees vacation benefits.

The Supreme Court has held that the Sixth Amendment's right to a public trial extends to the voir dire process. But that right doesn't require a new trial for two Wisconsinites who were convicted after their judge barred the public from voir dire, the Seventh Circuit ruled last week.

Why? Lack of objection from the defense attorneys. In a brief opinion penned by Judge Richard Posner, the Seventh ruled that those attorneys "forfeited their clients' right to an audience by failing to object to the judge's ruling excluding the audience in whole or part."

7th Circuit Upholds Ban on Robocalls

It's not easy being a machine. Put another way, robots do not have free speech rights. Or in other words, you can't use robocalls to convey political messages. Or perhaps even better said, as a federal appeals court said after listening to arguments that a ban on robocalls discriminated against political speech:

"We don't get it," the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said. "Nothing in the statute ... disfavors political speech."