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

June 2013 News

Maetta Vance, the only African-American working in her department, sued her employer Ball State University, under Title VII, alleging a racially hostile work environment because of the actions of her co-worker Saundra Davis.

The Supreme Court has held that under Title VII an employer is vicariously liable for the harassing actions of a supervisor toward a claimant in Faragher v. City of Boca Raton and Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth. The fate of Vance’s claim all depended on whether Saundra Davis was her “supervisor”. So, what exactly is a supervisor under the law? SCOTUS has drawn a line in the sand …

Summary Judgment Reversed; Toxic Tort Testimony Was Admissible

Donald Schultz worked as a painter for American Motors Corporation (acquired by Chrysler in 1987) from 1981 to 1989. During those years, he was exposed to an extremely high amount of benzene, a known carcinogen. In 2005, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He passed away less than a year later. His widow brought suit on his behalf against Akzo Nobel Paints and Durako Paint, the alleged manufacturers of the benzene-laden paint used by Schultz while working for AMC and Chrysler.

As lawyers, our first question is one of causation, and indeed, that is the heart of the matter before the court today. The district court, after finding one of the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony to be based on unreliable scientific evidence, granted summary judgment to Akzo and Durako.

Attorney Continues to Fight Non-Child Child Porn Conviction

Meet Gary Peel. Gary was once an attorney of note in the Madison County, Illinois area. In fact, he once had a case in front of the United States Supreme Court that dealt with attorney advertising and “specialist” claims. Though he didn’t argue the case, he was the censured attorney, and the heavily-fractured plurality decision is quite the interesting read, especially if lawyer advertising restrictions intrigue you.

He is currently in prison. He’ll be in prison for a while, unless his many appeals produce fortuitous results for the now-disgraced attorney.

What led to his downfall? An extra-marital affair and some decades-old non-child child pornography.

Crack Dealer Catches a Break on Sentence, Not on Conviction

Parnell Gulley's defense to crack-dealing charges were intoxication and ignorance of what was in the clear plastic baggie that he exchanged for $200. More surprising than the notion that someone would actually try that defense was the outcome: it almost worked.

Unfortunately for Gulley, after the first jury deadlocked, the second jury convicted him of the sole count of knowingly and intelligently distributing crack cocaine.

Posner Chides Government for 'Ostrich Conduct,' Not Cite-Checking

The first rule of legal research is: always cite check.

If you don’t, Judge Richard Posner will compare you to a really ugly bird.

Tiberius Mays is a former inmate of the Illinois state prison at Statesville. While a resident at the facility, he enjoyed many first-class amenities, including protracted group strip searches. When he complained, and filed suit, the inmates were allegedly subjected to an even more protracted strip search, with dirty gloves, in front of other prisoners, while the guards mocked the inmates’ bodies and genitalia.

Predictably, he sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arguing, amongst other things, cruel and unusual punishment.

Break Plea, Flee to Mexico, Get Below-Guidelines Sentence, Appeal

Got all that?

Javier Munoz pled guilty in 2007 to possession and distribution of cocaine charges. As part of his pretrial release terms, he agreed to show up to court as needed. After entering his guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement, but before actual sentencing, he fled to Mexico.

Five years later, U.S. Marshalls tracked him down, extradited him, and he faced sentencing. This time, however, the government wasn't feeling nearly as generous and recommended a higher sentence than the plea bargain provided for. The probation officer's presentence report added upward adjustments for additional drugs, obstruction of justice, and possession of a dangerous weapon. It also deleted credits for acceptance of responsibility.

Attorney Schooled by 7th Cir in 1L Contracts, Fee Disputes

Every practicing attorney will eventually have a fee dispute with a client. Call it the Murphy's Law of client relations. When such a dispute arises, how should one respond?

Do you: (a) Make reasonable attempts to obtain payment from the client? (b) File an allegedly frivolous attorney's lien for more twice what you say that you are owed? or (c) Set fire to the client's car and tell his children that they are dressed funny?

We'd go with the third option. Barry Gomberg, however, reportedly chose the second route. The man with "Over 33 Years Of Success" was retained to represent a client during mediation of a whistle-blower dispute. That agreement provided for a non-refundable retainer of $2,500, plus a ten percent contingency fee on all "monies and items of value that we secure for you ..."