7th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Seventh Circuit
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Recent Civil Rights Law Decisions

Indiana governor and Donald Trump running mate Mike Pence did well for himself in this week's vice presidential debate, if pundits and flash polls are to be believed. But his debate night triumph came on the heels of a stinging legal defeat, as the Seventh Circuit upheld an injunction against his Syrian refugee ban. Pence instituted the ban last year, after the terrorist attack in Paris, directing state agencies to stop funding the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

The Seventh Circuit wasn't having it. On Monday, the Seventh shut down Pence's ban, in a six-page tongue lashing that described the governor's logic as unfounded and based on "nightmare speculation." The ruling came shortly after last month's oral arguments during which Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner could barely contain his withering disdain for the state's position. Scratch that. He couldn't contain his distain at all, declaring at one point "Honestly. You are so out of it."

'Rats. This case is about rats.' And so begins Seventh Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook's finest judicial opinion, his Marbury v. Madison, his Brown v. Board of Ed., his Fisher v. Lowe.

Well, maybe that's going a bit far. But for a case about rats, this one from Easterbrook is pretty good.

7th Cir. Blocks Ct. Injunction That Would Have Allowed Voting With No ID

The Seventh Circuit threw up roadblocks to halt an injunction that had been issued by Judge Lynn Adelman of Milwaukee that would have allowed persons in Wisconsin to cast their ballots despite having no photo ID. The circuit found that the lower court was "too lenient in loosening a state voter ID law that had already been declared discriminatory," according to the New York Times.

7th Circuit: Sexual Orientation Not Covered by Title VII

Lesbians and gays (and presumably bisexual, transgender, and queer persons) do not enjoy Title VII anti-discrimination under that federal statute, the Seventh Circuit has ruled. However, cultural realities demand that employers cannot simply dodge legal punishment scot free.

No Racial Slurs Allowed by Chicago School, Teacher Firing Upheld

In the ironically-named case of Brown v. Board of Ed., a teacher who was suspended from his position for using the N word in his classroom (for educational purposes) has no First Amendment claim, according to the recent Seventh Circuit ruling. Also, for related reasons, the court says the teacher suffered no violation of his due process. It's Brown v. Board of Education again, but it still has yet another layer of appeal left to go.

The ruling will upset many of those who have pointed out repeatedly the gray line that exists between proper use of language in a setting that has restricted Free Speech interests.

7th Circuit Affirms Combined Convictions Against Child Abuser

A divided Seventh Circuit affirmed both child abuse and felony gun use convictions against admitted abuser David Resnick in a split decision that implicates the admissibility of polygraph information -- or rather, evidence of the defendant's refusal to submit to a polygraph.

But although the affirmation may strike many as being the proper outcome, the Fifth Amendment implications the opinion raises should really give even the most casual reader pause.

Wisconsin Polling of Jury During Trial Leads to Mistrial

A criminal defendant is entitled to a polling of the jury after a verdict has been reached and announced. But one slip of how the polling is done could basically necessitate a whole new trial. And this is exactly what happened in a Wisconsin federal district court.

The case below discusses interesting aspects of the Fifth Amendment's "overly coercive" doctrine.

When Wisconsin passed a voter ID law in 2011, requiring voters to present photo identification at the voting booth, opponents argued that the law unfairly punished those who had difficulty obtaining photo IDs. Such laws often make voting disproportionately difficult for minorities and the poor. But when those opponents sued, they lost. The Seventh Circuit ruled that the entire law cannot be enjoined just because "some voters faced undue difficulties."

But in a ruling by Judge Easterbrook on Tuesday, the Seventh Circuit breathed new life into the laws challenge, finding that individuals who faced extreme difficulty in obtaining a photo ID could still challenge the law.

Indiana's Child Services Is Immune From FLSA Suit

In the recent case Martinez v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services, the Seventh Circuit upheld a long held doctrine in the law: sovereign powers cannot be sued in federal court unless there is an alleged violation of the state's constitution or the U.S. Constitution.

Alternatively, the state can consent to being sued, but how often does that happen?

A Wisconsin law requires convicted sex offenders who have been released from civil commitment to wear a GPS ankle bracelet all day, every day, for the rest of their lives. And that is not an unconstitutional violation of their privacy, the Seventh Circuit ruled recently.

The ankle monitor sends daily reports of the offender's movements to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, who can then use the information to connect offenders to reported sexual assaults.