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

Recent Civil Rights Law Decisions

When walking into or out of a medical facility in Chicago, the law prohibits others from coming within eight feet of that person to distribute literature or protest. The law has been dubbed the "bubble zone" law because it creates a bubble around the individual entering or exiting the facility that protesters cannot invade.

So-called pro-life "sidewalk counselors" challenged the Chicago law on the basis that it violated their First Amendment rights. But both the federal district court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agree that, as precedent stands, the challenge is without merit.

Chicago Police Reforms Approved

Al "Scarface" Capone. Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti. Louis "Little New York" Campagna.

These were the names of Chicago's famous crime bosses, but things have changed since then. Now names like Laquan McDonald and Jason Van Dyke make headlines there.

Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer, was convicted of murdering McDonald. That led to a plan for police reforms, which a federal judge has now approved.

A recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision affirmed a lower court holding that the differential treatment received by disabled students seeking to transfer schools in Wisconsin is not unlawful.

Rather, as the opinion notes, Wisconsin's school district transfer program requires schools to accept transfer students if they have the "excess capacity," which is a number the school chooses based on an individual assessment of available resources, but schools have a separate "excess capacity" number for disabled students. Despite the fact that disabled students are literally competing for a different category of "excess capacity," the courts ruled that they are not being categorically discriminated against.

Google Wins Facial Recognition Lawsuit

Google did not violate privacy laws by creating face templates of people who uploaded their photos to the company's cloud service, a federal judge ruled.

In Rivera v. Google, Inc., the plaintiffs sued under a unique law that allows individuals to sue for collection of their biometric data. The Illinois law was also the first state statute to regulate the practice.

The problem, the judge said, was that the Fourth Amendment doesn't really recognize an expectation of privacy in a person's face.

Illinois Legislator's Free-Speech Claims Rejected by 7th Circuit

A federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit by a Republican state senator who said his party leaders retaliated against him for challenging them.

Illinois State Sen. Sam McCann, upset with the party and its choice for governor in the primaries, had announced that he would run as a third-party candidate in the general election. That same day, the senate minority leader kicked him out of the Republican caucus.

In McCann v. Brady, McCann says the leadership expelled him for exercising his right to free speech. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals basically said there is no free speech in politics.

When it comes to providing equal access to county services, a Wisconsin school district was accused of discriminating against a Catholic school because it refused to provide school bus service to it.

Unfortunately for the school, both a federal district court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal agreed, the school district's rule preventing the Catholic school from getting bus service was not discriminatory. As both courts noted, the district already provided bus services to another Catholic school under the same policy.

A group of plaintiffs in the city of Chicago have filed a lawsuit against the state of Illinois for not doing enough when it comes to gun control.

The plaintiffs are all individuals who have lost at least one family member to gun violence. And the lawsuit blames the state's failure to implement common sense gun control for the 2,000 gun related murders over the past three years. The lawsuit explains that the gun violence is beyond an epidemic and is having a disproportionate impact on the African American community.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the dismissal of a sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation case brought by a resident of a senior center.

The case alleges that the resident was subjected to pejorative verbal attacks, and even physical attacks, on multiple occasions. Furthermore, despite notifying the staff, nothing was done to protect her from the abusive tenants. The district court came down on the side of senior center as it agreed the Fair Housing Act only imposed liability on landlords for acting with discriminatory animus. However, the circuit court had a different reading of the FHA.

Smart meters have been a curiously controversial issue. Though most of the uproar that local news captured seemed to be from delusional paranoid individuals, it turns out there was another, more serious, and real danger.

Smart meter data can tell law enforcement a lot about an individual or household. And though the use of smart meters may not seem like such a huge intrusion upon a person's individual civil liberties and right to privacy, the Seventh Circuit explained that smart meter data does fall under the Fourth Amendment's protections; however, city utilities, generally, have a reasonable purpose for accessing the information and therefore do not need a warrant.

A new strip club that was planning on opening in the same spot as a closed down strip club recently filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana when the City of Fort Wayne refused to allow the new club to open.

While the city's ordinances clearly would prohibit the strip club from opening in the disputed location, the location had been "grandfathered" in. However, when renovations ran long after a change in ownership, the city refused to honor the prior exemption, claiming it expired after a year of non-use.