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

Recent Civil Rights Law Decisions

Indiana Court Historical Society Makes a Movie: Watch Free Online

As the Civil War raged, attorney Lambdin P. Milligan urged people to fight for slavery.

He told them to take arms against the U.S. government. He said he would rather die than lose his liberty.

"Let liberty be your watchword, and let it resound from every stump in Indiana," he said in a speech. That was Aug. 13, 1864.

Now the Historical Society of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has brought his speech and story back to life.

Fresh off the bench, Judge Richard Posner, or Dick, as Chief Judge Diane Wood calls him, has been stirring up some controversy on the court he used to serve. His new books explains his belief that pro se litigants don't get a fair shake in his former circuit, and not surprisingly, the justices still sitting on the bench in the Seventh Circuit disagree.

In a statement provided by Judge Wood to Above the Law, she explains that Dick is alone in his view that the staff attorneys don't do a good a job for pro se litigants, or disfavor pro se litigants. She calls his views "assumptions."

Court to Consider Attorney's Fees in Prison Beating Case

After all that Charles Murphy suffered at the hands of prison guards, his case is going to the U.S. Supreme Court over another issue: attorney's fees.

The High Court has docketed the case, Murphy v. Smith, to decide whether a portion of a judgment means "up to 25 percent" or "exactly 25 percent" for attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said that Murphy has to pay 25 percent of the fees from his award.

Murphy's attorneys, who won a $307,733 judgment, said the appeals court cut too much into the recovery for attorney's fees to be paid by the plaintiff. They want the defendants -- prison guards who beat him -- to pay more.

Civil Rights Law Includes LGBT Job Bias

In a historic decision, a federal appeals court ruled that civil rights laws protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace.

It is the first time in the United States that a court has extended the 1964 Civil Rights Act to workers who identify with the LGBT community. Other courts traditionally have said that sexual orientation was not protected because it was not defined in the Civil Rights Act.

"For many years, the courts of appeals of this country understood the prohibition against sex discrimination to exclude discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation," Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the en banc majority. "We conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination."

A U.S. district court in Chicago recently denied a warrant that would have allowed the government to compel any individual at the searched location to unlock his iPhone, iPad, or other Apple electronic device that was protected Touch ID. The warrant application raises serious Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns, the court explained, and fails to establish sufficient probable cause for the request that "is neither limited to a particular person nor a particular device."

Last summer, the U.S. government obtained a similar warrant to compel anyone in a building in California to unlock their phones with their fingerprints, but the recent ruling out of Illinois shows how such requests can meet resistance.

Acquitted Attorney Can't Sue Prosecutors, 7th Cir. Rules

No good deed goes unpunished, and you can't even sue for it.

That's a summary of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Katz-Crank v. Haskett, which says an acquitted lawyer is barred from suing government officials who unsuccessfully prosecuted her. Here's what happened:

An attorney discovered her client was committing fraud and reported him to authorities. But they already knew about it and were investigating whether the attorney was involved. They charged her with aiding and abetting, and she was acquitted. She sued, and a judge dismissed. The court of appeals affirmed.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that gays and lesbians were entitled to equal marriage rights. But when it comes to the right to work free from discrimination, federal protections currently don't cover LGBTQ employees.

That could soon change in the Seventh Circuit, however, as the en banc court hears a case today that could result in employment discrimination protections being extended to gay and lesbian workers.

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.