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

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.

A Putnam County, Indiana, sheriff's deputy who was convicted for excessive force won't get off with just a 14-month sentence, the Seventh Circuit ruled last Thursday. Calling the sentence "light," when compared to similar cases, the court demanded that sheriff's deputy Terry Joe Smith be resentenced.

Smith was convicted following a series of violent episodes in 2012, characterized by the court as "violent, gratuitous, and sadistic," which included beating subdued, unresisting, and handcuffed suspects.

Ramadan Meals Case Revived by 7th Cir.

The Seventh Circuit revived a free exercise of religion case in which a Muslim inmate sued his jailers for interfering with his observance of Ramadan by withholding "special meals."

The circuit vacated the lower court's summary judgment in favor of the defendant. According to the court, making a prisoner choose between food and religion is a substantial burden on his free exercise.

Beer Sellers Aren't a 'Suspect Class,' 7th Cir. Rules

How do you keep underage teens from drinking beer? Obviously, by limiting the sale of cold beer to taverns, liquor stores, and bars! That's right, temperature is the key.

At least that's the argument promulgated by the state of Indiana. The Seventh Circuit said, "Sure, yeah right." And as weird as the rationale behind the law sounds, the real issue is whether or not it is fair to ban the sale of cold beer in some businesses and not in others. We challenge you to find weirder equal protection violation allegation before the year is out.

What happens when a seniority-based job assignment system comes into conflict with the needs of disabled workers? Seniority wins, at least in a recent ADA lawsuit against United Airlines.

In that suit, a disabled United ramp serviceman failed to show "special circumstances" that would require United to make an exception to its seniority system, the Seventh Circuit ruled.

Forced Admitting Privileges on Clinics are Unconstitutional: 7th Cir.

In what could end up being one of the most significant reproductive rights cases in recent history -- that is, if it gets to SCOTUS -- the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that forced admitting privileges on abortion clinics by nearby hospitals was an unconstitutional undue burden on a women's rights.

Requiring admitting privileges has the effect of imposing the standards of local hospitals within a given proximity on clinics that offer abortions, a feature that many pro-life activists have used to advance their cause in so called "TRAP" laws.

You may love the sight of dandelions or want to cover your lawn in crabgrass. Maybe bunches of native wildflowers make your heart sing, while sculpted hedges and pedigree roses fail to impress. Well, sorry Mary Mary quiet contrary: your garden isn't allowed to grow that way in Chicago. Unconventional green thumbs can run afoul of the city's weed ordinance, which can lead to daily fines of up to $1,200.

And that's all fine and constitutional, according to a recent Seventh Circuit opinion by Judge Richard Posner. While the court upheld Chicago's ordinance against a constitutional challenge, Posner also pollinated his opinion with photos of flowers and recognized that, in some cases, the humble weed deserves horticultural -- and constitutional -- respect.

Non-citizens have a right to bear arms, even if they are in the country illegally, the Seventh Circuit ruled late in August. The ruling overturns a district court finding that the Second Amendment doesn't protect unauthorized aliens. In so holding, the Seventh created a split with the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Circuits, all of which have ruled otherwise.

But, there's a catch. While the right to bear arms extends to unauthorized non-citizens in the U.S., the Second Amendment also allows for limits. That includes a federal law banning unauthorized immigrants and nonimmigrant visa holders from possessing firearms, the court concluded.

A supervisor who allegedly ignored complaints that her parole officer was sexually harassing his parolees does not have qualified immunity, the Seventh Circuit ruled on Friday. According to a lawsuit filed by Adam Locke, a Minnesota parolee, Mya Haessig repeatedly ignored complaints that Locke was being sexually harassed by his parole officer and threatened him with retaliation for pursuing those complaints.

Failure to act on the sexual harassment complaints was a violation of Locke's equal protection rights, according to the court, and a reasonable jury could find that Haessig's failure to act was a form of discrimination against men who report sexual harassment.

Times are tough for executioners. Society has long moved passed the more flamboyant forms of capital punishment -- hanging, firing squad, guillotine -- and even the remaining methods might amount to torture. That is, if you can even find someone to use them on.

The Seventh Circuit isn't making any executioners' lives easier either. The court threw out the death sentence of a man convicted of killing an Indiana sheriff's deputy. The Seventh tossed the death sentence after the Indiana Supreme Court wrongfully ignored the defendant's low IQ scores and made false assumptions about his intellectual ability based on the fact that he could obtain work.