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

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.

Notre Dame has again been denied injunctive relief in its challenge to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate. The Catholic university had claimed that being connected in even the most minor way to the provision of birth control to its faculty and students violated its religious beliefs.

Last March, the Seventh Circuit refused to grant Notre Dame an injunction protecting it from the Affordable Care Act's mandate, prompting the Supreme Court to send the case back for reconsideration in light of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The Seventh reconsidered and announced yesterday that it was right the first time around.

Discrimination Suit Against Girl Scouts Can Proceed: 7th Cir.

The Girl Scouts are known far and wide for their cookies, but the Girl Scouts proved to be less than sweet when it came to Megan Runnion.

Runnion, a deaf girl, received sign language interpreters in order to help her participate in Girl Scout activities. When the Girl Scouts pulled the interpreters, Runnion's mother complained. The Girls Scouts' response? They disbanded her troop. Megan's mother alleged that ran afoul of a federal law called the Rehabilitation Act.

When Stephanie Miller proposed a condo development in the Madison suburb of Monona, Wisconsin, she soon discovered how quickly small town politics could get in her way. After a falling out with a former mayor over another development, her proposed condos suddenly faced a very rocky approval process. Miller found herself subject to a slew of roadblocks.

Eventually she went to court, alleging that she had been discriminated against as a "class-of-one." Miller alleged that she was being selectively prosecuted and that city officials had singled her out for unfavorable treatment, without a rational basis, when compared to similarly situated persons, such as the former major's son, whose developments had gone ahead without a hitch.

Highland Park's assault weapon ban does not violate the Second Amendment, the Seventh Circuit ruled on Monday. The ritzy Chicagoland suburb had banned the weapons in 2013, in part to evade a state law which would have prevented future legislation on such bans. The issue was so contentious at the time that residents skipped the Stanley Cup finals to debate the issue.

Judge Easterbrook wrote the opinion, with Judge Williams joining and Manion dissenting. The two justice majority asserted that Supreme Court precedent should not be read like legislation, governing the totality of Second Amendment rights, and that many questions regarding weapons, crime and self-defense are best left to the political process.

Navajo Prisoner Entitled to Venison, Colored Bandana: 7th Cir.

The Free Exercise Clause lets practitioners of Santeria in Florida ritually slaughter chickens, and lets a Muslim inmate have a half-inch-long beard.

Add David Schlemm to the list. He's a member of the Navajo tribe, imprisoned in Wisconsin, who wants to be able to practice certain religious rituals, namely eating venison and wearing a multicolored bandana while praying.

And you know what? The Seventh Circuit, led by Judge Frank Easterbrook, said OK.