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

May 2013 News

White-Collar Sentencing: Life Beyond 60, Couples Count 2x

White-collar criminals present a unique sentencing challenge. Unlike most thieves, the criminals behind securities fraud and embezzlement are unlikely to become repeat offenders. After all, is a CEO going to be rehired by another company after an Enron-esque scandal?

Then again, whereas a mugger might rob one person, a crooked CEO can, with one conspiracy, harm hundreds of victims. Two cases decided today illustrate the difficulties inherent in white-collar sentencing:

7th Takes a Stab at Defining Leadership, Jab at Sentencing Comm'n

Martin Luther King Jr. defined a genuine leader as "not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus."

The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) addresses the subject of leadership and organizational roles in USSG §3B1.1 by stating:

"in distinguishing a leadership and organizational role from one of mere management or supervision . . . the court should consider" factors that "include [and thus are not necessarily exhausted by] the exercise of decision making authority, the nature of participation in the commission of the offense, the recruitment of accomplices, the claimed right to a larger share of the fruits of the crime, the degree of participation in planning or organizing the offense, the nature and scope of the illegal activity, and the degree of control and authority exercised over others."

If the latter definition makes you nauseated, you aren't alone.

Bloch's Glock, Liquor-Loosened Lips, Easy to Convict

This case in four words: loose lips claim clips.

John Bloch III was prohibited by law from owning firearms for two very good reasons: he was a felon, and he was previously convicted of felony domestic violence (that's § 922(g)(1) and § 922(g)(9). When the police responded to reports of shots fired at his girlfriend's apartment, the wise move would've been silence.

But then there was booze.

Chrysler's Half-Measure Response to Anti-Semitic Harassment Costly

"Otto Cuban Jew muther f***er bastard get our message your family is not safe we will get you good Jew is a dead Jew say hi to your hore wife death to the jews heil hitler [swastika]."

Let's be clear about what we are dealing with here. What the threat lacked in spelling, it made up for in terror. It wasn't the first threat Otto May had received, either. For years, beginning in 2002 and ending in 2005, he endured harassment, with statements such as "Otto Cuban Jew fag die," scrawled on his toolbox, left on notes, or graffitied on the elevator wall. His cars were vandalized multiple times, his bike tire punctured, and at one point, a dead bird was dressed up in a toilet paper KKK outfit, with a pointy hat, and placed in a vise at his workstation.

Obviously, something had to be done. What did his Chrysler, his employer, do?

You Can't Perform Essential Job Duties if You Aren't There

Terri Basden worked as a dispatcher for a company that transported workers from one train to another train. It doesn't sound terribly exciting, but heck, it's a paycheck.

In January 2008, she fell after having a dizzy spell at home. She was treated at an emergency room, where the news got worse: the treating physician detected signs of multiple sclerosis. She also missed work.

She missed work again on the following dates, with a physician's note provided after each absence:

It's Not a Pretext if the Employer Believes It's True

Columbia College Chicago informed Suriya Smiley, a part-time instructor, that it would not ask her to teach further classes after a student complained that Smiley had singled him out in class because he is Jewish.

Smiley, who is of Palestinian and Lebanese descent, claims that the decision was based on her race or national origin. The district court disagreed, and granted summary judgment in favor of Columbia.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision this week.