While there's a special place in hell for women who don't help women, there's also a special place for people who prey on the sick and dying. While her meeting with her maker may not be not near, the Seventh Circuit used their powers to make sure Maisha Hamilton's Fourth Amendment claims did not survive.
Parkinson's and a $10K Check
Maisha Hamilton alleged that Allan Lorincz, who was dying of Parkinson's disease, hired her to help him with "end-of-life tasks" in the spring of 2010. She worked 88 hours at a rate of $65, and accordingly, asked him for $5,720 in back wages. In response, Lorincz gave her a check for $10,000, claiming that the balance, $4,280, was a bonus. Hamilton called Lorincz's children, telling them that Lorincz was dying, and that he had given her a $10,000 check. Immediately, Donald Lorincz went to his father's house and Alice Dale (his daughter) called the police.
Upon arrival, the police tried to assess the situation to see if elder abuse was occurring. During their two-hour stay, the police learned that Hamilton was a "convicted fraudster," who was a psychologist who had her license revoked. They also learned that Lorincz already had home health care aides, that Davy Cady, a friend of Hamilton's, was at the house (for reasons unknown), and offered $5,000 by Lorincz, and that Hamilton had sent for a notary public so that Lorincz could grant her a power of attorney. After seeing and learning all of this, the police asked Hamilton to leave -- without the $10,000 check.
Lorincz died four months later, and after his death, Hamilton sued his estate for $74,610 in unpaid wages, including the $10,000 she was not allowed to take during the police incident. Not surprisingly, she lost. She then sued the town and police under 42 U.S.C § 1983, alleging, among other things, that the police violated her Fourth Amendment rights for first detaining her at Lorincz's home for two hours, and then forcing her to leave. (Did she want to stay, or go?) The district court dismissed her claims, and she appealed.
Unlawful Police Detention?
The Seventh Circuit had to determine whether Hamilton was unlawfully detained. At the outset, the Seventh Circuit noted that "not all lawful police detentions need to be classifiable as either Terry stops or arrests." Because of the specific factors here, such as the location (her employer's home), having a friend present, not being handcuffed, questioned at length, and no resulting arrest or proceedings against her, the court found that the police acted reasonably under the circumstances. Judge Posner stated: "Detention in one's residence or office . . . should not be automatically equated to being jailed, or hauled off in a paddy wagon."
We're not sure there was anything ground breaking -- legally speaking, here. The most dramatic thing was Hamilton's actions. We think the Seventh Circuit came to the correct conclusion here, and we're willing to guess that Hamilton's litigious history suing government officials for kidnapping and enslavement probably had just a little to do with it.