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Decision in Firefighters' Reverse Discrimination Suit, Plus Criminal, Immigration, Administrative Matters

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By FindLaw Staff on March 12, 2010 3:36 PM

Today, the Seventh Circuit decided three criminal cases involving a first degree murder conviction and two felonious firearm possession convictions.  The court also ruled regarding the Social Security Administration's denial of benefits to a claimant, an immigration case, a train engineer's claim for injuries, and last but not least, a suit by white firefighters against a city for employment discrimination.

In Gray v. Hardy, No. 07-3704, the court faced a challenge to the district court's denial of defendant's request for habeas relief for his conviction of first-dgree murder and sentenced to an extended term of sentence of 80 years based on a finding that the murder was exceptionally brutal and heinous. In dispensing with defendant's various claims, the court concluded that defendant has procedurally defaulted each claim and even if he had adequately preserved  his claim of ineffective assistance claim, he cannot show that he was prejudiced by his counsel's failure to raise the Apprendi claim.

In US v. Sykes, No. 08-3624, the court faced a challenge to defendant's enhanced sentence under ACCA in his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  In affirming the district court's determination, the court held that the propr conviction of fleeing a police in a vehicle in violation of Ind. Code is sufficiently similar to ACCA's enumerated crimes in kind and degree of pose risked.

In US v. Jackson, No. 09-2279, once again, the court faced a challenge to a conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  Here, the defendant's main challenge was the district court's denial of his motion to suppress.  However, in ultimately affirming the district court's conclusions, the court held that the officer had reasonable basis for believing that defendant's mother had authority to consent to the search of the computer and the computer case.  The court concluded that the officer did not exceed the scope of his search and that the district court did not err in denying defendant's request to raise an "innocent possession" defense.

In Juarez v. Holder, No. 08-1788, the court faced a challenge to BIA's denial of Guatemalan petitioner's and her son's application for withholding of removal and related relief as untimely.  In upholding the denial, the court stated that the petitioners had ample time to file their applications and were given ample time to provide biometrics and did not have good cause for their delay. 

In a decision of two consolidated cases Parker v. Astrue, No. 09-2270, the court faced a challenge to the  denial of social security benefits. In a case of a claimant suffering from chronic pelvic pain, incontinence, and asthma, the ALJ founf that the claimant can stand and sit for six hours during a workday, and decided that she would be capable of working as a counter attendant, assembler, sorter, or packager, despite unanimus opinions by examining professionals that she has severe, nearly constant, delibitating physical pain.

In the case of the other claimant, a Cambodian refugee, suffering from diabetes, hepatitis B, depression, and PTSD, the ALJ used much of the same boilerplate language used in the other case in denying this petitioner's claim for disability benefits.  Thus, in reversing the district court's affirmance of ALJ's denial of benefits, the court held that an administrative decision that fails to mention highly pertinent evidence, conducts limited analysis based on boilerplate paragraphs, cannot be upheld.

In Serafinn v. Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 722, No. 08-1114, the court faced a challenge to the district court's grant of summary judgment to a joint council and a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in plaintiff's suit against his local union and the joint council claiming violation of his free speech and assembly rights.  In affirming the decision, the court first concluded that the local's claims fail because the jury instructions either benefited the local union or otherwise waived any challenge.  Next, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's claim regarding the atttorneys' fee award and affirmed the denial of relief from summary judgment because the new eivdence plaintiff asked for was cumulative.

In Stockwell v. City of Harvey, No. 09-2355, the court dealt with a claim, by white firefighters, that the city failed to promote them within the fire department because of their race.  The firefighters attempted to establish their claim using the McDonnell-Douglas indirect method of proof and asked the court to reconsider the "background circumstances" requirement, that is used in reverse discrimination cases.  In declining to do so, the court held that it need not address any of plaintiffs' argument with respect to whether they demonstrated a prima facie case because they have failed to produce sufficient evidence of pretext.  And the city, through its fire chief, has set forth legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for declining to promote plaintiffs to deputy and/or assistance chief positions.

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